Demos, the New York-based group, began monitoring North Carolina about a decade ago because it spotted a drop-off in public assistance registrations. Gary Bartlett, the State Board of Elections director at the time, was eager to attract more voters, said Stuart Naifeh, an attorney with Demos.
“He was as dismayed as we were about the low rates,” Naifeh said. “He wanted to work with us to improve that.”
Naifeh said North Carolina elections officials started monitoring the issue more closely, visiting agencies to make sure they had the voter registration forms, training material and policy manuals. As a result, he said, the numbers gradually increased to a high of nearly 43,000 in 2011. Registration applications over a 10-year period averaged 38,409, and then dropped by 58 percent in 2013 and 2014, according to the analysis. Bartlett retired in 2013, the same year Gov. Pat McCrory took office.
Last week, Demos and other groups gave notice to file a lawsuit unless progress is regained. DHHS spokeswoman Kendra Gerlach said in an interview that there has been no move to make voter registration less accessible at state offices.