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NC Voters Can Register Same Day They Vote During Early Voting Period, Federal Court Says

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

A federal appeals court has suspended parts of North Carolina’s new voting law, saying it may disproportionately affect black voters. State lawmakers are already asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

The ruling will allow voters to register on the same day they cast a ballot during early voting, and to vote outside of their assigned precinct.

A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a two-to-one decision on Thursday that the potential injury to minority voters this election would be irreparable. The decision was in response to four lawsuits challenging a North Carolina voting law enacted in 2013.

"The Court took an important step to ensure that this election will remain free, fair, and accessible to all North Carolina voters," said Rev. William Barber, of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, which filed one of the suits.

State leaders, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is running for U.S. Senate in the November election, said the state would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Blocking parts of the new law just a month before the election could create major confusion for voters,  

"Rewriting reasonable rules requiring people to vote in their own precinct and register in advance will strain our voting system, confuse voters and disrupt our general election that is only a month away," Tillis and state Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a joint statement.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, explained that if the Supreme Court issued a stay on the circuit court's decision, it could do so as soon as this week.

CORRECTION 10/02/2014, 1:18 p.m.: An earlier version of this post did not state that a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel decision was in response to four separate lawsuits against North Carolina's new voting law; it inaccurately said it was in response to only one suit. This post has been updated to reflect that.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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