On December 2, 2016, the North Carolina NAACP and legal counsel Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC announced their efforts as intervenor-defendants in a case brought by a conservative political organization, the Civitas Institute. The case is the latest in a longstanding effort by the North Carolina GOP and former Governor Pat McCrory’s allies to disenfranchise minority voters and, more recently, block certification of the results of the governor’s race. On December 20, 2016 the Civitas Institute voluntarily dismissed the case, and Governor Roy Cooper took office on January 1, 2017.
“Civitas has been at the forefront of voter suppression efforts like HB589. Same-day registration and early voting are the very voting mechanisms they and other special interests attacked,” said Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Their efforts were already ruled to be ‘surgically targeted’ attacks on African American voting rights, and thus violations of the Voting Rights Action and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.”
Francis De Luca, president of the conservative Civitas Institute, filed the federal lawsuit, DeLuca v. North Carolina State Board of Elections et al., on November 22, 2016. The suit sought to challenge an estimated 3,000 votes cast by North Carolinians who opted for same-day, in-person voter registration and early voting during November’s general election.
The North Carolina NAACP filed a motion on December 2, 2016 to dismiss the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the State Board of Election’s certification of the election results, citing the plaintiff’s failure to provide any factual and legal support for the motion.
“The plaintiff has presented no evidence or any factual or legal support for their motion for an injunction,” said co-counsel Judge Martha Geer, partner at leading national civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. “They aren’t behaving as if they are seriously seeking to litigate this case. Rather, it would appear they are using the suit to broadcast an agenda and to stall the certification of the election results. The case seems to be part of an overall delay strategy that has escalated over the last few weeks and that needs to come to an end.”
De Luca sought an immediate injunction to prevent certification of the election for an unspecified time period and then cancellation of certain votes based on returned mail, even though the voters were fully eligible and lived at the residential addresses provided in their registration. Were it successful, the lawsuit would have further drawn out McCrory’s window to challenge the election results. Civitas Institute’s top donors include businessman Art Pope, former Governor McCrory’s former budget director.
“This baseless case does no more than raise the same issues that have already been resolved by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; in essence, DeLuca is asking a lower court to re-litigate this issue,” said Irving L. Joyner, longtime legal counsel for the North Carolina NAACP. “It’s a waste of court and state resources. We’ve called on the court to immediately dismiss this frivolous claim. It amounts to beating a dead horse and is a clear effort to unnecessarily extend the vote count.”