VIP Study Reveals Failures in Same-Day Registration Law

[Note: Page 25 of the linked slide set in this report has been corrected.]

Feb 25, 2020 (Raleigh) The Voter Integrity Project and VIP’s Legal-Education Fund (ELEC) released a report to the Legislature and NC election officials, today, that disclosed their results of a comprehensive study of all registrations of persons who voted either under Same-Day Registrations (SDR) rules or Provisional Ballot Rules (PBR) during North Carolina’s September 2019 special election and found system failures in two of their three research areas.

A portion of VIP-ELEC’s 2,092 letters sent in their study of Same-Day Registration and Provisional voting.

Their 51-page report (corrected verson accessed here) showed how the group surveyed 2,092 voters and analyzed any returned letters to find an SDR-rejection rate that is seven times greater than the rejection rate reported by the State Board of Elections (SBE).

“This work exposed several dangerous weaknesses in the way election officials verify the registrations of new voters,” said Jay DeLancy, VIP’s Founder. “Either people are lying about their address in order to vote in North Carolina, or election officials are falling down on sending out the verification mailings and either way, that’s a system failure.”

Voter Integrity Project – ELEC Founder, Jay DeLancy

A secondary issue involved the types of proof election officials accepted from SDR voters. During the survey, two voters reported showing no proof of address whatsoever when they registered and voted on the same day during early voting. Others reported using documents or screenshots of documents that are not allowed under NC law.

“In those cases, the voter is not to blame,” said DeLancy, “but the officials working the Early Voting locations should know better. Either they are poorly trained or they are deliberately breaking the law so this needs correction right away.”

The third problem area the group uncovered involved testing the voter verification system. Under NCGS ยง163-82.7, the verification of new voters is overly dependent on the timely return of any mail that goes to the wrong address. New voters cannot be denied, “unless the Postal Service has returned as undeliverable two notices to the applicant.”

To test the reliability of that process, the VIP-ELEC study sent 238 letters to voters at one county but used names of voters from another county. That design was to ensure that 100% of the letters would be returned, marked “undeliverable” by the USPS.

“To date, more than five months after the mailings ceased, we’ve received less than a third of them back,” DeLancy said. “This is proof that our current verification process is a complete failure and should be repaired during this year’s short session.”

Currently, 21 states allow SDR according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. Of those, North Carolina is the only state that shuts down the process at the end of early voting. The 20 others allow SDR on Election Day. In all 21 states, it is not possible to follow standard voter verification in time for the canvass.

Courtesy NCSL website.

The VIP-ELEC report makes recommendations on how to tighten the verification process without banning the SDR law, itself. With the proliferation of states granting SDR privileges, the results of this study may have national implications.

Early voting still underway in North Carolina and 2,855 SDR ballots have already been accepted. Election Day for the 2020 primaries is March 3rd.