Common Cause files new brief in lawsuit seeking representation for North Carolina’s 2.6 million unaffiliated voters on State Board of Elections

Unaffiliated voters are the largest group of registered voters in North Carolina, but current law unfairly bars them from service on the elections board


RALEIGH – Today, Common Cause and other plaintiffs filed a brief in a lawsuit seeking to allow unaffiliated voters to serve on North Carolina’s State Board of Elections.

The brief from plaintiffs in Common Cause v. Moore responds to a baseless attempt by Republican legislative defendants to dismiss the case. Attorneys for the plaintiffs show in today’s brief that the lawsuit must proceed.

Plaintiffs in the case have standing and the unaffiliated voters in the lawsuit are harmed by an unconstitutional law that unjustly bars them from serving on the State Board of Elections, the brief explains.

The largest group of registered voters in North Carolina are not affiliated with any political party, surpassing both Democrats and Republicans in numbers. However, current law deprives these nearly 2.6 million unaffiliated voters from representation on the State Board of Elections, which makes important decisions about voting and elections in the state.

As stated in today’s brief, recent elections starkly demonstrate how election administration is a foundational aspect of the right to vote.

In North Carolina, election board members decide who is qualified to register to vote, where they may vote, when they may vote, and whether their vote is counted. And the U.S. Supreme Court often has recognized that the right to vote is not just the right to cast a ballot, it is the right to participate equally in all aspects of elections.

As such, service on the State Board of Elections is just as important to equal participation in elections as any of those other activities. The right to vote depends on being allowed to register, to cast a ballot, and to have that ballot counted. It also depends on being part of the process by which those decisions are made.

“Excluding well-qualified unaffiliated voters from serving on the State Board of Elections does not fulfill any public interest and is clearly discriminatory,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “More than a third of North Carolina voters have decided the Democratic and Republican parties don’t represent them. So why would granting those two parties sole control over elections make voters more confident about the fairness of the process? It’s time to give unaffiliated voters a seat at the table and representation on the State Board of Elections.”

Common Cause and a group of unaffiliated North Carolina voters filed the lawsuit in August, arguing that the current system discriminates against unaffiliated voters by prohibiting their service on the State Board of Elections, which is a violation of their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of association, and equal protection.

Nearly 2.6 million (35 percent) of North Carolina’s 7.2 million registered voters are unaffiliated. Meanwhile, 2.4 million voters (33 percent) are registered Democrats and 2.1 million voters (30 percent) are registered Republicans, according to data from the State Board of Elections.

The growth in unaffiliated registration is likely to only accelerate as young people come of age to vote. As of last April, 42 percent of North Carolina voters aged 25-40 were registered as unaffiliated, and 47 percent of those under 25.

The case of Common Cause v. Moore is filed with the federal U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. A hearing in the case has not yet been scheduled.

Today’s brief from Common Cause and the other plaintiffs can be read here.

The original complaint filed by Common Cause and the other plaintiffs in August 2022 can be read here.

Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

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