In a Historic Win for Voting Rights Advocates, North Carolina Superior Court Makes a Ruling Granting the Right to Vote to Over 56,000 North Carolinians
RALEIGH, NC — On Monday, March 28, 2022, a three-judge panel ruled that the state's existing felony disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional, immediately restoring voting rights to over 55,000 North Carolinians on probation, parole, or post-release supervision for previous felony convictions. This historic judgment re-enfranchises over 56,000 North Carolinians, making it the greatest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that the current law violates the North Carolina Constitution’s Equal Protection and Free Elections Clauses. The majority opinion found that North Carolina’s disenfranchisement scheme is racially discriminatory in its intent, and has a disparate impact on Black people, excluding them from full participation in our democracy. Moreover, the trial court held that denying the right to vote to over 56,000 people, living in our communities under felony supervision, prevents the will of the people from being expressed in elections in North Carolina. Today’s historic ruling ends the discriminatory disenfranchisement of thousands of North Carolina residents who are living, working, and paying taxes in our community, and would otherwise vote in significant numbers had they not been legally barred from doing so for decades.
Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice and lead attorney on the case said, “This landmark decision is the largest expansion of voting rights in NC since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Preamble of the North Carolina constitution begins with “We the People of the state of North Carolina”, the three-judge panel in C.S.I. v. Moore, just expanded who is included in that “We” in “We the People” by granting the right to vote to people under felony supervision, some 56,000 North Carolinians, many of whom are disproportionately African American. We applaud the majority opinion’s legal conclusion that North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement scheme violates the Equal Protection and Free Election clauses of our state’s constitution by discriminating against African Americans in intent and effect, thereby frustrating the will of North Carolina voters.”
The court’s order provided immediate relief, stating that, “Defendants, their agents, contractors, servants, employees, and attorneys, and any persons in active concert or participation with them, are hereby enjoined from preventing any person convicted of a felony from registering to vote or voting due to probation, parole, or post-release supervision.” The order went on to clarify that, “For the avoidance of doubt, under this injunction, if a person otherwise eligible to vote is not in jail or prison for a felony conviction, they may lawfully register and vote in North Carolina.”.
Plaintiffs in the case, including Community Success Initiative, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Justice Served NC, and Wash Away Unemployment announced that they are prepared to respond to any opposition from Defendants but will immediately begin registering all who are eligible to vote.
In a joint statement today, the Plaintiffs explained: “We’re excited about the outcome of this case and that a voice has been given to those who have been voiceless. This ruling also gives us a collective voice in the decisions and policies being made across the state that impact people who have found themselves entangled in the criminal legal system. The work now begins to get our people registered to vote so we can affect real change in our communities.”
A copy of the full order can be found here.
A language guide on discussing these issues using people-centered language can be found here
Contact: Brittany Cheatham, Forward Justice firstname.lastname@example.org