North Carolina judges: More felony offenders can now vote

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AP News on 8/23/2021 by GARY D. ROBERTSON

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tens of thousands of North Carolina residents convicted of felonies but whose current punishments don’t include prison time can register to vote and cast ballots, a judicial panel declared Monday.

Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders who sued legislative leaders and state officials in 2019 argue the current 1973 law is unconstitutional by denying the right vote to people who have completed their active sentences or received no such sentence, such as people on probation. They said the rules disproportionately affect Black residents and originated from an era of white supremacy in the 19th century.

In a brief hearing following a trial last week challenging the state’s voting restrictions upon felons, Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell said two judges on the three-judge panel have agreed they would issue a formal order soon allowing more felony offenders to register. The judges are acting before issuing a final trial ruling, as voting in October municipal elections begins next month.