Lawsuit filed on behalf of various voting and civil rights groups (Community Success Initiative, Justice Served N.C., North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and Wash Away Unemployment) and individuals convicted of felonies challenging North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law, which denies the right to vote for individuals with past felony convictions who remain on probation, parole or a suspended sentence. Since being released from probation requires the payment of various legal and court fees, re-enfranchisement is often dependent on an individual’s ability to pay these costs. The state trial court granted injunctive relief allowing all individuals on probation, parole or a suspended sentence due to a prior felony conviction, regardless of if they have completed all monetary obligations related to their conviction, to register to vote in North Carolina. This ruling immediately enfranchised over 56,000 people. The North Carolina Court of Appeals then paused the trial court’s preliminary injunction while litigation continues, blocking the registration of individuals with prior felony convictions, and the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. Though individuals with former felony convictions may not register to vote while the case is on appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that those who registered to vote before the preliminary injunction was paused are still considered registered voters.
After the preliminary injunction and summary judgment stage, there were three remaining claims that went to trial. In a 2-1 decision, the trial court held that the state’s law that disenfranchises individuals on felony probation, parole or post-release supervision violates the North Carolina Constitution because it discriminates against Black voters and denies people the fundamental right to vote. The state appealed this decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which temporarily paused the trial court’s order. On July 26 however, the appellate court’s order expired, meaning that individuals with felony convictions on community supervision who were enfranchised by the trial court’s decision will be eligible to vote starting in the upcoming November election. Before the appellate court decided the appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court took over the case. Litigation before the state’s highest court is ongoing.
Case Documents (trial court)
Case Documents (NC court of appeals)
Case Documents (nc supreme Court)