AP

NC trial judges again allow more felony offenders to vote

Mar 28, 2022, 4:29 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s law that prohibits people convicted of felonies from registering to vote while they are still serving probation, parole or other supervision discriminates against Black residents and is unconstitutional, a panel of state judges ruled on Monday.

The decision expands on a preliminary injunction issued last August by the majority on the same panel that heard evidence in a trial challenging a 1973 state law that delays the restoration of voting rights for some offenders who aren’t serving prison or jail time. It could affect tens of thousands of people previously convicted of felonies.

That injunction was blocked by the state Supreme Court in September. But any offender who registered during a roughly 10-day period when that injunction was in place could remain on voting rolls, the justices ruled last year.

Now Monday’s order essentially makes the content of that previous injunction more permanent. Lawyers for the state and General Assembly leaders could appeal the decision and seek to delay its enforcement for now.

But if upheld, the ruling signed by Superior Court Judges Lisa Bell and Keith Gregory could mean offenders still on probation or parole or being formally supervised for a state or felony conviction could register to vote.

Last summer, that would have affected more than 56,000 people, according to evidence at trial.

The North Carolina Constitution forbids a person convicted of a felony from voting “unless that person shall be first restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law.” The law laying out those restoration rules requires the “unconditional discharge of an inmate, of a probationer, or of a parolee.”

Gregory and Bell agreed that the law violates equal protection and free election clauses of the state constitution.

They cited evidence presented during the trial that the felony disenfranchisement laws stemmed from a Reconstruction-era effort to intentionally prevent Black residents from voting. The 1973 law eased restoration requirements.

Evidence showed that today Black residents are disproportionately denied the right vote due to the felony supervision limits, the ruling said.

“The legislature cannot purge through the mere passage of time an impermissibly racially discriminatory intent,” Bell and Gregory wrote. “The legislature’s decision in the 1970s to preserve (the law’s) denial of the franchise to people living in the community was itself independently motivated by racism.”

The law also prevents people otherwise living in their communities from participating in the electoral process, the judges wrote.

“Elections do not ascertain the will of the people when the denial of the franchise to such a large number of people has the clear potential to affect the outcome of numerous close elections,” Bell and Gregory wrote.

Judge John Dunlow, a panel member who declined to issue the preliminary injunction last August, also issued a dissenting opinion Monday.

Dunlow wrote that establishing a process by which convicted felons regain their voting rights until after they complete post-release probation or supervision is “a valid and legitimate governmental interest.”

The law “does not bear more heavily on one race than another” and “does not have the intent nor the effect of discriminating against African Americans,” Dunlow added.

Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders had filed a lawsuit in 2019. Some individual plaintiffs testified to their desire to vote. Probation can last several years.

“People who work, live and pay taxes in our communities should not have their voices & votes silenced due to a previous felony conviction,” Durham-based Forward Justice wrote in a tweet. A lawyer for the group helped represent the plaintiffs.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, who were listed among the lawsuit defendants, didn’t immediately have a comment late Monday on the ruling, their spokespeople said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

1 day ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

2 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

2 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

4 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

4 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

NC trial judges again allow more felony offenders to vote