Change the South,
Change the Nation


Unlock Our Vote Campaign

We’re fighting to ensure equal access to the ballot by advocating that everyone, despite their criminal record history, should be able to participate in our democracy. That’s why we’re working to overturn an unconstitutional disenfranchisement law that disproportionately impacts people of color.

Press Conference Announcing rights restoration litigation

Unlocking the votes and voices of thousands of people impacted by the criminal justice system.

Limiting access to the ballot for any group of people is the antithesis of an inclusive democracy. Currently, in the state of North Carolina, people who have been convicted of a felony lose their right to vote not only during any period of incarceration, but also throughout the duration of their probation and post-release supervision periods—thus stripping away their rights to full participation in the democratic process and their ability to have a voice in policy decisions that affect their lives. 

Litigation Update as of 7/13/2021: A trial date in our case has been set for August 16th. As a society, when harmful laws are enacted that bar formerly incarcerated individuals from exercising their voting rights, it is a subconscious yet calculated act of stripping one of their human identity. Having conquered this issue once before, we rise up again ready to push in court for more broader relief for the formerly incarcerated. More details to come.

Black people are disproportionately impacted by this disenfranchisement. Our expert reports found that although Black people constitute 21% of the voting age population in North Carolina, they represent 42% of the people disenfranchised while on probation, parole, or post-release supervision. In 44 counties, today, the disenfranchisement rate for Black people is more than three times the rate of the white population.

The Unlock Our Vote Campaign centers on  ensuring that thousands of people in our state do not have their voices unconstitutionally denied in the November election and beyond.

Here's what we're doing


Community Success Initiative v. Moore (No. 19-cvs-15941, Wake County Superior Court)

In November 2019, Forward Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of four organizational plaintiffs and six individual plaintiffs in Wake County Superior Court, seeking to reinstate voting rights for nearly 60,000 North Carolinians previously convicted of felonies who have had their right to vote taken away under the unconstitutional felony disenfranchisement law (N.C.G.S. 13-1). Our plaintiffs allege, and we believe, that this law violates several provisions of the North Carolina Constitution: the free elections clause, the equal protection clause, freedom of speech and assembly, and the ban on property qualifications. 

Plaintiffs have asked for swift relief to ensure that thousands in the state do not have their voices unconstitutionally denied in the coming November 2020 election.  

In September 2020, a three-judge panel ruled that thousands of people on community supervision whose inability to pay fines and fees extended their probation and parole can now register to vote.

This new ruling means that North Carolinians are now eligible to vote as long as they have completed  probation, parole, or post release supervision- even if they still owe fines, fees, or restitution. The ruling also applies to those currently on felony probation and their probation was extended due to outstanding court costs, fines, and fees; they are now eligible to vote.

While we're excited about this victory, our fight continues. Tens of thousands of people on community supervision remain disenfranchised because the ruling only applied to those who still owe fines and fees — not to the broader group who remain on probation or parole for other reasons. We will return to court in 2021 to continue our fight to expand the 'we' in 'We the people' and create a more inclusive democracy.

Narrative Change

We know that shifting policy starts with shifting narrative and culture. We work to center the stories of people directly impacted by this issue, in an effort to shift narrative and public opinion around voter disenfranchisement from one of ‘punishment for a crime or conviction status’ to one of unconstitutional disenfranchisement based in white supremacy and racism. 

Through social media campaigns, video storytelling, and traditional media, we want to ensure this work and these stories become a part of statewide and national conversations around rights restoration, voter disenfranchisement and suppression, and the importance of the 2020 election.

We will use these stories and narratives to raise awareness of the the racial disparities around disenfranchisement, the social harms that result from disenfranchisement, and as a way to mobilize community members to become actively engaged in this effort- as we make our democracy truly representative by expanding the “we” in “We the People”, and bringing about the bold vision of the full ending of disenfranchisement in North Carolina.


The North Carolina Second Chance Alliance 

The NC Second Chance Alliance is a statewide alliance of people with criminal records, their family members, service providers, congregations, community leaders and concerned citizens that have come together to address the causes of criminal records and the barriers they create to successful reentry. 

Forward Justice is a founding member of the Second Chance Alliance, because we believe that it takes bold, collective action to create change. Through our work with the SCA chapters,we are working to conduct outreach to expand our base and mobilize people around this issue through phone banking, hustle texting, canvassing, and event attendance. Community education is a key component of this campaign. We are also working with the SCA chapters across the state to identify local and statewide elected officials and better understand their criminal justice platforms. We are organizing and mobilizing across the state to ensure that directly-impacted community members are actively engaged in this effort.


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FAQ for Voting with a Criminal Record in NC

In September, a three judge panel ruled that thousands of people on community supervision whose inability to pay fines and fees extended their probation and parole can now register to vote.

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Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Plaintiffs in the Community Success Initiative, et. al., v. Moore Case

Multiple amicus curiae briefs have been filed in support of Plaintiffs in the Community Success Initiative, et. al., v. Moore case in Wake County Superior Court, regarding the restoration of voting rights for individuals currently on probation or post-release supervision for a felony conviction in North Carolina.

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