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Civil Rights Groups File Summary Judgment Motion to Restore Voting Rights to Nearly 60,000 North Carolinians

May 11, 2020

Civil Rights Groups File Summary Judgment Motion in Case to Restore Voting Rights to Nearly 60,000 North Carolinians Ahead of the November Election

RALEIGH, NC— Today in Wake County Superior Court, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, Forward Justice, and Protect Democracy filed a motion for summary judgment or for a preliminary injunction on behalf of Community Success Initiative, Justice Served NC, Inc, Wash Away Unemployment, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, and individuals who have been wrongfully disenfranchised by the state of North Carolina. The motion seeks to restore the voting rights of 56,516 North Carolinians who are living in North Carolina communities in time for the November 2020 general elections.


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. This lawsuit challenges a state statute that disenfranchises certain North Carolinians who have previously been convicted of a felony, treating them differently from all other persons living in the community.


“Disenfranchised individuals are denied hope along with their right to vote. They lose hope in the system that has stripped them of their vote and their voice to change it,“ says Corey Purdie Executive Director of Wash Away Employment, an organizational plaintiff in the case. “Perceptions that directly impacted people do not want to vote, or would not vote even if their rights were intact can be easily answered: give people hope and they will want to contribute; give people a voice and they will speak; give people their rights and they will exercise them."


“North Carolina’s current felony disenfranchisement scheme is a remnant of our state’s sordid history in race-based political suppression, with immense political consequences today, “said Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice, “Limiting access to the ballot for any group of people is the antithesis of an inclusive democracy. With the current pandemic reshaping the way that we will be able to vote in November, ensuring equal access to the ballot is an especially clear and urgent need.”


The filing also includes expert reports providing racialized historical context for the felony-based disenfranchisement scheme in North Carolina, a statistical analysis of those impacted by the law and its impact on recent elections, and an analysis of political participation of people formerly convicted of a felony, as well as he social harms that result from disenfranchisement.


A report by Frank Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 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.


“North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement laws were developed as part of an explicitly racist effort after the Civil War to suppress the political power of African Americans, and the laws continue to have their intended effect to this day,” said Daniel Jacobson, an attorney from Arnold & Porter. “This vestige of Jim Crow violates multiple provisions of the North Carolina Constitution and must be eradicated.”


"North Carolina's disenfranchisement of citizens on probation, parole, or post-release supervision is not just incompatible with the time-honored principle of one person, one vote—it is a modern-day incarnation of centuries of race-based oppression in this country, disproportionately shutting Black people and poor people out of our democratic process,” said Farbod Faraji of Protect Democracy.


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

About the N.C. NAACP

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP (“North Carolina NAACP”) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization composed of over 100 branches throughout the state of North Carolina. The fundamental mission of the North Carolina NAACP is the advancement and improvement of the political, civil, educational, social, and economic status of minority groups; the elimination of racial prejudice; the publicizing of adverse effects of racial discrimination; and the initiation of lawful action to secure the elimination of racial bias.

About Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting attacks, from at home and abroad, on our right to free, fair, and fully informed self-government. Together, armed with our Constitution and the rule of law, we can fight back and protect our democracy from those who would do it harm.

About Arnold & Porter

With nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 14 offices around the globe, Arnold & Porter serves clients across 40 distinct practice areas. The firm offers 100 years of renowned regulatory expertise, sophisticated litigation, and transactional practices, and leading multidisciplinary offerings in the life sciences and financial services industries.