RALEIGH–Wake Superior Court Judge Don Stephens late Friday afternoon ordered the state voter registration deadline extended to Wednesday (Oct. 19) in 36 counties reeling from Hurricane Matthew and resultant flooding.
Those counties are Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
They originally sought the extension for the entire state, but Stephens limited it to counties getting help from FEMA, which includes Hyde.
The state Democratic Party had sued state Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach to get the deadline extended, saying her refusal to do so created a hardship for people displaced by a natural disaster.
State Democrats, the state NAACP and Common Cause NC had all asked this week for some kind of registration extension.
Assistant Attorney General Alex Peters, who represented Strach, said extending the deadline would burden local elections offices because they also have to prepare for the start of early voting on Thursday.
While voters in the 36 impacted counties could use same-day registration during the early voting period, same-day registration is confined only to the early voting period. Those who missed the Oct. 14 regular deadline would not have had the opportunity to vote in the Nov. 8 general election without the court acting to extend the deadline.
“We are very pleased with the court decision that will allow the thousands of North Carolinians severely impacted by the hurricane to have a full and fair opportunity to vote on Election Day,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC.
Judges in Florida and Georgia extended voter registration deadlines in those states because of Hurricane Matthew. South Carolina also extended its voter registration period.