Online Originals: N.C. lawsuit seeks to expand voting rights for felons

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — In Wake Superior Court on Monday, attorneys were presenting their case trying to restore voting rights of North Carolinians who have a felony conviction. 

The case looks to give felons who are on parole or probation the right to vote. It will not give anyone serving a sentence the right to vote. If the judge rules in favor of this case, that could give about 50,000 North Carolinians the right to vote  

Monday was Day 1 of the trial, which will run through Friday. Several organizations like the NAACP are represented by attorneys, arguing that the state’s current disenfranchisement laws are a racial and social justice issue. 

A report from expert witnesses in the case shows that Black people make up 21% of the voting-age population but represent 42% of the people disenfranchised. Advocates say restoring the voting rights of felons who’ve served a sentence should be a part of the transition process. 

“Should they not then, as a means of getting back into society, and that’s what parole and probation is about as well, allow them to again have a voice like the rest of us in making those decisions,” says Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC.  

In September of 2020, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of these advocacy groups saying people cannot be blocked from voting because they still owe money for fines and fees from their felony conviction. 

You can follow the trial at this link.

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