There were three particularly noteworthy aspects of the 1877 statutory scheme that Henderson ushered into law and that remain in effect today.
- First, the General Assembly chose the broadest possible scope of people to disenfranchise—those convicted of ALL felonies, not any subset of the most serious or election-specific crimes.
- Second, the General Assembly made it a crime for people with felony convictions to vote before their rights were restored, punishable by up to two years in prison. That is exactly the punishment that exists today for people with felonies convictions who vote unlawfully. I’m sure you all are aware of the “Alamance 12”, people who were prosecuted in Alamance county, NC, in 2016, for mistakenly voting while on felony probation.
- Third, the 1877 statutory scheme required people to wait four years from the date of conviction before they could apply to have their rights restored. Today’s law also disenfranchises people for extended periods of time, despite the fact that they live in our communities, expert witness Dr. Frank Baumgartner found that the average term of probation is over 30 months.