There is more to the North Carolina voter registration story than just Les Merritt trying to audit our voter rolls, which coincided neatly with a inquisitive memo from the "Department of Justice". The DOJ, now highly politicized is anxious to trim voter rolls rather than encourage voting. There IS more to the story, and NC is not alone in "getting the memo".
Question: How did North Carolina get on the DOJ's radar?
Answer: North Carolina began registering more voters.
NC dramatically increased the rate of voter registration this year, by better compliance with Section 7 of the NVRA. (Section 7 requires state public assistance agencies to offer voter registration opportunities to clients and applicants.)
Michael Slater of Project Vote talked about this in his June 12 blog, here are key excerpts:
...Demos, our partner in efforts to improve compliance with Section 7, reports on the results of reforms undertaken by North Carolina to improve public agency registration: “Eleven percent more voters were registered in the single month of February 2007 than in the entire year of 2005 in the 30 counties providing complete data for that month.”
So what happens when North Carolina hits the news for greatly increasing its voter registration,especially through public assistance agencies?
The DOJ wields Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act with an irrational exhuberance:
There was, however, at least one NVRA provision—or rather, sentence— that von Spakovsky found to his liking. Section 8 requires, among a number of other things, that states “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.” 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(4) In January 2005, von Spakovsky instructed Rich to compare state voter files with census information to determine which states may have more voters than the eligible voting age population, which presumably would indicate states that had failed to purge their voter rolls.
(Interestingly, Karl Rove shared this concern in a speech before the Republican National Lawyers Association ...
This project evolved into a “nationwide effort to assess compliance with Section 8” as John Tanner described it in a letter to North Carolina dated April 17, 2007, in which he demands a copy of the state voter file. (North Carolina's response is here.)
...McClatchy’s Greg Gordon reported that the Justice Department brought seven Section 8 cases against states whose chief election officials are Democrats while ignoring states with similar or worse voter registration files run by Republicans.
Slater describes a recently politicized DOJ and Von Spakovsky
Von Spakovsky’s interest in voter purges is well-documented in his own writing and through his service on the advisory board of the Voting Integrity Project, an organization that has seems to have followed the life circle of its ideological successor, the American Center for Voting Rights.... It takes some effort to overlook the fact that von Spakovsky has turned the Justice Department’s Voting Section into yet another Republican “ballot security” program.
Learn more about John Tanner, (the author of the DOJ letter to North Carolina) in "Resurrecting Jim Crow: The Erratic Resume of the Voting Section Chief"
Now that Same Day Registration has passed, we may be able to dodge that DOJ bullett. We need to keep registering voters now, and provide voters with a card that encourages them to follow up with their local elections office or to check online to ensure they are registered. We should use Same Day Registration judiciously, and make sure we provide sufficient poll workers for every single county.