Federal courts reject challenge brought by Clinton campaign counsel to early voting plans in 5 NC counties

A federal appeals court panel has rejected a request by a group of North Carolina voters for modifications to early-voting plans in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Nash and New Hanover counties.

Early voting starts Thursday in North Carolina.

Marc Elias — a Washington, D.C.-based attorney involved in several high-profile voting rights cases and counsel to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — represented a group of voters who filed their request in early October, less than three weeks before early voting was to start.

The voters contended that the five counties were not fully complying with a ruling this summer by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that invalidated much of a 2013 elections law overhaul.

To bolster their contentions, the attorneys mentioned a message that Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party, sent in August to GOP appointees to county elections boards to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays.

Four of the five counties leaned Democratic in 2012, voting for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, who narrowly won in North Carolina that year.

A U.S. district judge rejected the emergency request last week, and the 4th circuit panel did the same on Wednesday with little elaboration.

The ruling has no impact on a state judge’s decision last week to extend a voter registration deadline in counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.