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North Carolina Citizens Sue for Their Right to Vote

Overview

On November 20, 2019, Protect Democracy, Forward Justice, and Arnold & Porter initiated this lawsuit on behalf of six individuals and several nonprofit organizations to restore voting rights for those with prior felony convictions. These organizations—Community Success Initiative, Justice Served NC, Inc., the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, and Wash Away Unemployment—work to re-enfranchise citizens denied the right to vote under North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law.

After a week-long trial, on August 23, 2021, a three-judge panel initially ruled that any person on community supervision—including those on probation, parole, and post-release supervision—due to a state or federal felony conviction could register to vote. The North Carolina Court of Appeals stayed that ruling and the State’s Supreme Court affirmed that stay.  The parties now await a ruling on the merits from the three-judge panel.

The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, but for too long people with prior felony convictions had been denied that right. Before this ruling, North Carolinians who had been convicted of a felony lost their right to vote not only during any period of incarceration, but also throughout the duration of their probation and post-release supervision periods—stripping away their right to fully participate in our democracy, including their ability to have a voice in policy decisions that affect their daily lives.

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