Legal battle continues to expand voting rights to those with prior felony convictions in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – It is day four of the legal battle to expand voting rights of those with prior felony convictions. The trial is happening in the Wake County Superior Court, but if this law is overturned, it will impact all of North Carolina.

The law being debated right now prevents felons, who are still on probation or parole, from voting in elections. The plaintiffs want to overturn this to give felons, who aren’t currently serving active prison time, the right to vote.

But this week’s trial isn’t the first time this law has been under fire, it started back in September of 2020.

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Marcus Bass, Deputy Director of the North Carolina Black Alliance, said the same judges decided the state wouldn’t enforce the part of the law that required felons to pay all their monetary debts, think court fees and restitution, before they could vote. Fast forward to this week, civil rights groups argue that if a felon isn’t incarcerated, they should be able to vote, regardless of parole or probation status.

The plaintiffs argue this law intentionally prevents black people from voting. Lawyers, representing the Republican lawmakers fighting to keep the rule, say it has nothing to do with race and isn’t intentionally discriminatory. They say it doesn’t violate constitutional rights because it treats all convicted felons equally. Bass doesn’t buy that.

“Free is free. Whenever you are released from prison, even though you have this probation period, you are still free, and your rights should be restored in that moment. North Carolina right now is having to defend why they still think is right to the not let a majority of black voters, in this case, 46%-43% have the right to vote that fit this criteria,” Bass said.

If overturned, this would be the biggest voting rights expansion since 1965. It would most likely directly impact many tight races in North Carolina, which is predominately purple.

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