State Watch

Civil rights groups: North Carolina ruling will allow 56K felony offenders to vote

Roughly 56,000 felons in North Carolina who are no longer serving prison time are now allowed to register to vote, following a preliminary ruling from a three-judge state panel.

The ruling came after civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in November 2019 on behalf of six individuals and nonprofit organizations with the hopes of restoring voting rights for individuals who were previously convicted of felonies, according to a press release from Protect Democracy, Forward Justice and Arnold & Porter, two of the groups that brought the legal action and the law firm representing the plaintiffs.

A three-judge panel in September ruled that the state’s felony disenfranchisement law violated two provisions of the North Carolina Constitution, granting partial judgement for the plaintiffs and restoring voting rights for thousands of people who were on community supervision because of unpaid financial obligations, according to the groups.

On Monday, however, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to expand the right to vote to the 56,000 felons in North Carolina who are on probation, parole or post-release supervision.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell revealed on Monday during a hearing that the two judges would issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent North Carolina from refusing voter registration to North Carolina residents convicted of felonies who were on probation, parole or post-release supervision, CNN reported, citing voting rights grounds.

The ruling was reportedly disclosed verbally, and no written order has been made yet.

Kellie Myers, the trial court administrator in Wake County, North Carolina, which is the district overseeing the case, confirmed the preliminary injunction to CNN.

She said it will affect people convicted in federal and state courts and will be implemented immediately.

The Hill reached out to Myers for more information.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections wrote in a statement that the ruling means it “must immediately begin to permit such individuals to register to vote.”

“State Board staff will work as quickly as possible to update communication materials and all forms and documents to comply with the order. Staff are also working with the Department of Public Safety to update data the State Board receives regarding individuals who are ineligible to register to vote due to a felony conviction,” the board added.

The board said it will “consider the written ruling upon its release.”

The preliminary injunction, however, may still be appealed, CNN noted.


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