Skip Navigation

North Carolina Overturns Voter Registration Restriction

August 8, 2007

For Immediate Release
August 8, 2007

Contact Information:
Jonathan Rosen or Tim Bradley, BerlinRosen Public Affairs (646) 452–5637 / (314) 440–9936
Justin Levitt, Brennan Center for Justice, (212) 992–8158

North Carolina Legislature Overturns Matching Restriction on Voter Registration

Governor’s Signature Would Repeal Registration Rule and Help Thousands Register and Vote

Raleigh, NC – Today voting rights advocates in North Carolina and across the country called on Governor Easley to sign a voter registration law removing obstacles that would have prevented thousands of North Carolina citizens from successfully registering to vote, including voters using the new same-day registration procedure. The call came immediately following the overwhelming approval of the legislation in both chambers of the state legislature late last week.

In an election reform bill that passed the Senate 44–4 and the House 101–1, the General Assembly scrapped an existing policy rejecting new voter registrations from citizens if even a single letter of their personal information on their registration card did not match their personal information in state motor vehicle and Social Security databases.

In March, 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law found that states depending entirely on Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration databases to verify information on voter registration forms could create unwarranted hurdles to registration that could disenfranchise as many as 1-in-5 new voters.

The federal Help America Vote Act requires states to maintain statewide lists of registered voters. In 2006 the Brennan Center found that a handful of states – including North Carolina – had misconstrued the law, refusing to place eligible citizens on the rolls unless their registration information “matches” data in the state motor vehicle or Social Security systems.

This matching requirement causes problems for eligible voters, especially in trying to match registration forms with Social Security information.  A citizen registering as “Bill” might not “match” if his Social Security number is issued under “William”; a woman’s married name might not match against a database that has her maiden name.  Common data entry errors also cause matches to fail.  According to Brennan Center court documents in a 2006 Washington State case, one woman was barred from the rolls when her birthday was mistakenly entered into the system as “1976” instead of “1975”.

Washington State has now reversed that policy. Advocacy efforts have also borne fruit in other states, including California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and under a policy announced by the Secretary of State just before the 2006 election, Texas. North Carolina would now become the latest state to remove the barrier.

Voting rights advocates in North Carolina and across the country praised the General Assembly for repealing the policy and urged the Governor to bring North Carolina into line with the overwhelming majority of states that have rejected “no match, no vote” policies.

“The General Assembly’s action complies with the requirements of federal law and puts the Governor one step away from ensuring that thousands of eligible North Carolina citizens are able to register and vote,” said Justin Levitt, Counsel at the Brennan Center and author of Making the List: Database Matching and Verification Processes for Voter Registration.

“We applaud the State Board of Elections and the legislature for making some vital changes that will protect the right to vote for certain eligible voters,” stated Jo-Anne Chasnow, policy director for Project Vote’s election administration program.

“Last week’s decision by the General Assembly will prevent tens of thousands of eligible voters from being disenfranchised on election day, and we look forward to the Governor throwing his full support behind it,” said Joyce McCloy, Coordinator of the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting.