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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Expanded Early Voting in N.C. Rejected by 4th Circ.

(CN) - The Fourth Circuit on Wednesday denied an emergency appeal from a group of North Carolina voters who sought an extension of early, in-person voting in the presidential battleground state.

In an emergency motion filed on Oct. 17, the plaintiffs argued that the state's failure to extend early, in-person voting in five, predominately black North Carolina counties flies in the face of a Fourth Circuit ruling on July 29, 2016, in which a three-judge panel held that several provisions of the state recently revamped election law were enacted with discriminatory intent and must be enjoined.

The law reduced the number of early voting days in the state from 17 to only 7, and the injunctive relief granted moved the start of early voting back to Oct. 18.

The plaintiffs argued in their motion that the black community overwhelmingly relies on early voting, and that even the Oct. 18 date frustrated the desire of large number of them to vote.

The five counties Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Nash, Guilford, and Forsyth include the cities of Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Wilmington.

The plaintiffs sought an increase in the number of early voting hours and dates, including Sundays, in the subject counties.

On Oct. 13, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder denied the motion, holding that while the plaintiffs might be raising the serious questions, the latest of their challenge to the start of early voting and other factors made their motion for emergency relief "problematic."

However, he did warn state and local board of election officials who might disagree with the Fourth Circuit's July ruling not to see his denial of relief as a green light "to engage in conduct that otherwise constitutes a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution."

The plaintiffs appealed Schroeder's ruling, but on Wednesday, a three-judge Fourth Circuit panel also denied them the extension of early voting they sought.

It did not explain the rationale for its decision.

A state judge already extended a voter-registration deadline until Wednesday in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

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