A federal judge blocked part of a new North Carolina election law governing same-day registration at early voting sites. Lawmakers could appeal the ruling while the lawsuit continues in the federal courts. 

The GOP-led General Assembly passed the provisions as part of an expansive set of election law changes. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 747, but the General Assembly voted to override the veto and passed the bill into law. Sunday's ruling only affects one part of the new election laws. 

What You Need To Know

  •  A federal judge blocked part of North Carolina's new election law

  •  The ruling temporarily bans the state from enforcing a law on verifying voter addresses when they register at early voting sites

  •  The provision was passed as part of a suite of election law changes from the GOP-led General Assembly last year

  •  Lawmakers could still appeal the ruling as the case makes its way through the federal court system

The judge said a provision in the law related to certifying voter addresses could be unconstitutional and would be blocked ahead of North Carolina's Super Tuesday primary on March 5.

The part of the law singled out in the ruling has to do with same-day registration or address changes during the early voting period.

Under the new law, the state sends out a postcard to verify the address of someone who registers or changes their address at a one-stop voting site. If that card gets returned by the U.S. Postal Service, that voter's ballot would be canceled. 

The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit argue that county boards of elections should give voters more of a chance to have their ballot counted. 

"State Board Defendants concede that they have 'no way' of knowing if an unreturned card truly demonstrates ineligibility because they only know the card was returned as undeliverable, not why," Judge Thomas Schroeder wrote in Sunday's order.

The ruling comes in response to two separate federal lawsuits filed in North Carolina, the first by Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force and Down Home North Carolina, progressive groups in Boone, North Carolina. 

The second lawsuit was filed by the Democratic National Committee and the North Carolina Democratic Party. 

The plaintiffs in the two cases included examples of address verification cards that were returned as undeliverable because of government errors and no fault of the voter. That included one card where an official wrote "same" in the mailing address field instead of copying the address for the card. 

"The vast majority of Senate Bill 747 is still in effect, including increased poll observer access, bans on special interest money funding election offices, and making election day the last day to receive absentee ballots," House Speaker Tim Moore and House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Chairman Rep. Grey Mills, both Republicans, said in a joint statement.

"The court order requires relatively minor changes to one small part of the bill, and we are working with our attorneys and the State Board of Elections to ensure that the entire bill is in effect before the primary and general elections this year. We will never stop fighting for election integrity on behalf of North Carolina’s voters," they said.

Democrats commended the ruling Monday. 

"I'm excited about the opportunity for people to have a fairer right during early voting and making sure that same day registration is somewhat protected in the state," said Anderson Clayton, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Cooper said, "It's clear that this Republican legislature has put restrictions on voting. And I'm glad to see the courts step back and stop that for the time being. I mean, somebody should get notice if they're going to be able to take away their vote. And the courts recognize that. And I think that's positive."

Most of the new election laws remain in place ahead of this year's primaries. 

"The fact that we have observers are going to be given a lot more ability to properly observe the functions around Election Day, things along those lines. Those are all in place. You know, what we're talking about here is that a judge has made a very small tweak to one small provision regarding same-day registration," said Michael Whatley, chair of the North Carolina GOP.

The State Board of Elections on Monday said it is working to make sure the right procedures are in place for North Carolina's primaries.

"The order requires election officials not to remove a same-day registrant’s ballot from the official count if that voter’s registration card is returned as undeliverable prior to the county canvass of votes, without providing that voter notice and an opportunity to be heard," a spokesman said in a statement to Spectrum News 1.

Early voting for North Carolina's primary elections begins Feb. 15. The state's primary Election Day is on Super Tuesday, March 5.