A three-judge panel in North Carolina ruled the state has to restore voting rights for nearly 55,000 people on parole or probation for a felony.
“Everyone on felony probation, parole, or post-supervision release can now register and vote, starting today,” Stanton Jones, a lead lawyer for the plaintiffs challenging the law, said.
Stanton says that Monday’s ruling “delivers on a promise of justice by the North Carolina NAACP a half-century ago, that all people living in communities across the state deserve to have their voices heard in elections.”
“I believe it is immoral to disenfranchise any individual, who is a citizen, the right to vote,” Anthony Spearman, President of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said.
“Starting tomorrow, we plan to start a voter registration drive across the state,” Dennis Gaddy, Founder of the Community Success Initiative in Raleigh, said.
“Our biggest quarrels in this state have been over what groups of people have a voice at the ballot box to be included in ‘We the People,” Daryl Atkinson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and co-director of Foward Justice in Durham, said. “Today, we enlarged the ‘we’ in ‘We the People.'”
The previous voting law only allowed felons in North Carolina to register to vote after completing their probation or parole.
Lawyers that were challenging the law say that free Blacks were often accused and charged with felonies and that restrictive voting laws were enacted to stop newly freed Black individuals from voting after the Civil War. The lawyers argue that this trend is still ingrained in the judicial system.
Republican state lawmakers are planning to appeal the Judge’s ruling.
Orlando Rodriguez, a Republican lawmaker defending the law, says that the history of the voting laws is true, but they were reformed in the 1970s. The Republican lawmaker also credited Mickey Michaux, a politician, and civil rights leader, for modernizing the voting laws in North Carolina.
“This newer history clearly indicates a trajectory toward improving the ability to have the right to vote,” Rodriguez said.
According to The News & Observer, twenty-one percent of North Carolina’s voting-age population is Black — forty-two percent of these voters have had their rights taken away because of the legislation.
Gaddy believes that people without voting rights cannot advocate for themselves, family, or their communities.
Republican Senator Warren Daniel, co-chair of the Senate’s committee on election laws, says that the Court’s decision to grant voting rights was a “power grab.”
“Judges aren’t supposed to be oligarchs who issue whatever decrees they think best,” the Senator said.
The Senator says that the Court does not have the power to decide on the voting legislation because it is a policy issue.
“If a judge prefers a different path to regaining those rights, then he or she should run for the General Assembly and propose that path,” Senator Daniel wrote in a statement to The News & Observer.