WASHINGTON, D.C. — A three-judge panel in a North Carolina state court ruled that all individuals on probation, parole or a suspended sentence due to a prior felony conviction can immediately register to vote in North Carolina. The formal ruling, issued on Friday, Aug. 27, came after the court announced its decision orally at a hearing on Monday, Aug. 23. This order expands a previous preliminary injunction issued in September 2020 in which the court held that individuals “currently precluded from exercising their fundamental right to vote solely as a result of them being subject to an assessment of fees, fines, or other debts arising from a felony conviction” could register to vote.
This victory originates from a case filed in 2019 on behalf of the Community Success Initiative, Justice Served N.C., the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Wash Away Unemployment and individuals convicted of felonies. The plaintiffs challenged 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 was often dependent on an individual’s ability to pay these costs until the court’s preliminary injunction prohibited it. This state trial court’s ruling last week expanding the right to vote for all individuals on probation, parole or a suspended sentence due to a prior felony conviction immediately enfranchised over 55,000 people.