A federal district court judge will likely rule today on whether to hear a lawsuit that aims to put an end to No Excuse Voting.
If the judge decides to hear the lawsuit, No Excuse Voting could be suspended while the case is heard.
The N.C. General Assembly approved No Excuse Voting, which allows citizens to cast ballots for three weeks prior to Election Day, in 1998 as a tool to increase voter turnout.
Education leaders have used the program to encourage college students to vote for the $3.l billion higher education bond referendum on this year's ballot.
The suit - brought Oct. 13 against the State Board of Elections by Greensboro lawyer Marshall Hurley on behalf of two Guilford County voters - alleges that early voting has the potential to decide elections before Election Day, violating federal law.
"(No Excuse Voting) sets up a whole series of election days," Hurley said. "It lets all the bars down, and it becomes `open-season' voting."
In a hearing Friday, Hurley asked federal District Judge Terrance Boyle to stop satellite voting until the suit can be heard. Boyle gave Hurley until today to gather more information before Boyle makes a ruling.
No Excuse Voting, which took effect Oct. 16, allows the state's voters to cast ballots at satellite polling sites in the county where they are registered until Nov. 3. The ballots are counted as absentee ballots.
But Hurley said federal law requires that elections for Congress and the presidency occur on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.
One of the suit's plaintiffs, Marcus Kindley of Gibsonville, said it was his duty as a citizen to question the voting policy.
But Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said the lawsuit is politically motivated.
"This is a continuation of the delaying and obstruction of the bill by Republicans in the General Assembly," Kinnaird said. "We should expand rather than deny people access to the ballot."
But Kindley, the vice chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party, stressed that his party affiliation was not a factor in his decision to file the suit.
"I didn't go (to the county Republican Party) and ask for permission," Kindley said. "I am acting as a citizen."
N.C. Republican Party political director Dan Gurley expressed concern that early voting could skew election results but said the party did not have an official stance on the lawsuit.
"The way the state's records are kept for its voters there is potential for fraud," Gurley said. "Someone could be registered in different counties and vote multiple times."
Johnnie McLean, State Board of Elections deputy director of administration, said she expected the judge would dismiss the suit.
"The General Assembly ratified it. It is the board's responsibility to administer the law," McLean said.
During a recent visit to a satellite location in Durham, people voting at the site responded positively to No Excuse Voting, she said.
"They have thanked (the Board of Elections) for allowing this wonderful thing to happen," McLean said.
Kindley said he recognized the convenience of the new policy but said the issue at stake - its constitutionality - was more important.
"Sometimes freedom isn't convenient."
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