North Carolina sued for stripping voters of right to cast early ballots

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A group of Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit in North Carolina to protect early voting.

Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit on Monday against a state law they argue is "limiting and restricting early voting opportunities" for voters in North Carolina.

The lawsuit, filed jointly by the North Carolina Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), argues that the law "unconstitutionally burdens North Carolinians' right to vote."

The lawsuit centers on the state's S.B. 325, a bill passed in 2018 that stripped away the ability of North Carolina voters to go to the polls on "Last Saturday," or the final Saturday before Election Day. According to the complaint, 135,000 North Carolinians voted on the final Saturday before Election Day in 2018, making up almost 7% of all early votes cast during that election. Further, early voting is particularly popular with key groups that tend to support Democrats, such as African Americans and young voters.

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According to the lawsuit, S.B. 325 "has the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for Democratic-affiliated voters, a group disfavored by General Assembly Republicans, to express their political will at the ballot box, and thus constitutes improper partisan retaliation against voters on the basis of their political affiliation."

North Carolina is likely to be a battleground state in the 2020 election, so much so that Republicans decided to hold their nominating convention in Charlotte. Sen. Thom Tillis, the state's junior Republican senator, faces a tough reelection race and is one of the top targets of Democrats hoping to regain control of the U.S. Senate.

President Obama carried North Carolina in 2008, and Democrats found statewide success in 2016 by winning the governor's mansion. In 2020, Democratic groups want to ensure every voter has a chance to make their voice heard.

"With control of everything from the White House and Congress to the governor's mansion and the General Assembly on the ballot next year, it is vital that every voter can freely and easily make their voice heard," Wayne Goodwin, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement.

"We are committed to protecting the early vote program so that North Carolinians may exercise their rights without unfair obstacles." Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said about the lawsuit.

Democrats found success in the courtroom on Monday when a panel of state judges ruled North Carolina Republicans implemented an unfair partisan gerrymander when they drew congressional districts. Democrats hope to build on that success and further eliminate voter suppression tactics implements by Republicans.

"Every American's right to vote is sacred," Rep. Cherri Bustos (D-IL), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said, adding, "I am proud to stand up for North Carolinians' ability to vote early, and I look forward to the day where access to the ballot isn't treated as a partisan issue, but rather a universal American value."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.