(CN) - The North Carolina NAACP filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging that elections boards in Moore, Cumberland and Beaufort Counties illegally cancelled more than 4,000 voters' registrations in order to suppress the votes of black citizens before the Nov. 8 general election.
The 41-page petition for injunction seeks to stop state and county boards of elections from cancelling registrations for allegedly bogus change-of-address violations that fail to adhere to National Voter Registration Act policies.
The suit claims that election board records in Moore, Beaufort and Cumberland Counties show that "a small number of individuals" recently challenged the registration of thousands of voters "based exclusively on mass mailings that were returned undeliverable."
"The State Board of Elections defends the mass cancellations on the ground that state laws purportedly allow private individuals to challenge voter registrations based on evidence that they have moved out of the precinct or county, including a returned mailing," the complaint says.
But the NAACP says the board wrongfully canceled registrations for voters who have moved, but continue to live in the same county, as they should be able to change their address at their polling place.
The suit also says the National Voter Registration Act prohibits registration removal unless the registrant affirms a change of address in writing or, as more commonly applied here, fails to respond to a notice and fails to vote during the next two general election cycles.
The NAACP is seeking restoration of voter registrations that were cancelled based on returned mail, and it wants the state to take action to make sure that such voters can cast ballots on or before Nov. 8.
The plaintiffs are represented by Stacey Leyton of Altshuler Berson in San Francisco; Penda Hair of Forward Justice in Washington, D.C.; Mary Carlson, of Washington, D.C.; and Irving Joyner of Cary, North Carolina.
Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, said in a written statement that the voter challenges that inspired the lawsuit were filed by private citizens, not election officials.
"Our independent agency administers state and federal election laws," Strach said. "The statutes at issue are decades old and are common across the country and widely regarded as compatible with the National Voter Registration Act. If the plaintiffs are right, then most states are wrong."