Legislative leaders rebut arguments from felon voting advocates | Eastern North Carolina Now | N.C. legislative leaders argue that felon voting supporters are attacking a provision of the state constitution, not the 1973 law that re-enfranchises felons.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is CJ Staff.

    State legislative leaders argue in a new brief that the N.C. Supreme Court should reverse prior court rulings granting voting rights to felons. The brief says a lawsuit supporting felon voting aimed its objections at the wrong target.

    The case could determine whether as many as 56,000 felons can vote in N.C. elections.

    "Plaintiffs' response fails to remedy the fundamental defect at the heart of their case - they have challenged North Carolina's statute for re-enfranchising felons, when what they really are complaining about is the North Carolina Constitution's provision for disenfranchising felons," according to the brief from Republican legislative leaders. "North Carolina's re-enfranchisement statute is the product of civil rights reformers of the 1970s, not any racial discrimination."

    "Plaintiffs' choice of the wrong target permeates the case," the brief continued. "Plaintiffs cannot have standing to challenge a law that has never hurt them because it does not disenfranchise anyone, and the Superior Court's injunction exceeded its authority by usurping the General Assembly's constitutionally granted authority to prescribe the method for re-enfranchising felons."

    A trial court ruled, 2-1, in March against the 1973 state law that spells out a process for felons to regain their voting rights in North Carolina. As part of that decision, the court ruled that all felons who had completed active prison time should be allowed to register to vote in North Carolina. That ruling would apply to felons on parole, probation, or post-release supervision.

    A 2-1 N.C. Court of Appeals ruling on April 26 blocked felon voting for the May primary and July 26 elections. Under the Appeals Court's decision, felon voting would begin in November. The state Supreme Court now has the case, titled Community Success Initiative v. Moore.

    Provisions for restoring voting rights to felons are spelled out in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 13-1, which addresses the restoration of citizenship.

    "On the merits, Plaintiffs' claim that Section 13-1 was racially motivated hinges upon tying Section 13-1 to racial animus that they contend surrounded the effort to add felon disenfranchisement to the North Carolina constitution in 1876 and codify that policy in statute in 1877," according to the legislators' brief. "What Plaintiffs cannot escape, however, is that the re-enfranchisement statute - the predecessor to Section 13-1 that Plaintiffs challenge - was not amended in the 1870s but rather retained the form it had taken since 1840 - before African Americans had the right to vote."

    "Therefore, even if Plaintiffs theoretically could succeed by tarring the civil rights reformers who enacted the 1970s reforms with what came before (and they cannot), such a gambit would not work here. A re-enfranchisement law enacted before African Americans had the right to vote cannot possibly have been motivated by discrimination against African Americans. Plaintiffs also cannot escape that every amendment to the felon re-enfranchisement law since 1840 has been in the direction of greater liberalization, and the form Section 13-1 takes today is the result of reform efforts by civil rights stalwarts."

    "Once the focus is on re-enfranchisement, rather than disenfranchisement, Plaintiffs' claims of discrimination fall apart," legislative leaders argue. "Accepting Plaintiffs' other arguments for invalidating Section 13-1 would require this Court to find that felons have a fundamental right to vote, that elections without them are not 'free,' and that insisting felons pay their debt to society before rejoining the electorate is the equivalent of a poll-tax or property qualification. No such findings are possible because the North Carolina Constitution itself disenfranchises felons, subject to any re-enfranchisement law the General Assembly may in its discretion enact."

    "Absent action by the General Assembly, felons in North Carolina would be disenfranchised for life by direct operation of the Constitution. Felon voting in North Carolina is a matter of legislative choice, not constitutional right."

    The brief defends the current law, which dates to the early 1970s. "The re-enfranchisement scheme the General Assembly has enacted is automatic and the simplest and easiest system North Carolina has ever had for re-enfranchising felons," according to the brief. "It was passed at the behest of African American reformers with the goals of making restoration easier and removing the possibility for bias. It affects all felons the same, regardless of race. All it requires is that felons complete the sentences for the offenses that caused them to be disenfranchised before rejoining the electorate. That is perhaps the most rational policy for re-enfranchising felons, and it certainly is one the General Assembly was entitled to adopt."

    The latest brief from lawmakers responds to arguments submitted Aug. 17 by plaintiffs in the case. Lawmakers face a Sept. 19 deadline to reply to arguments from multiple friend-of-the-court briefs supporting felon voting. Among them is a brief representing state governments in 14 "blue" states and the District of Columbia.

    The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments in the case.
Go Back


Leave a Guest Comment

Your Name or Alias
Your Email Address ( your email address will not be published)
Enter Your Comment ( no code or urls allowed, text only please )




Panic as smoke rises on the horizon: Covering 9/11 from Washington, D.C. Carolina Journal, Editorials, Op-Ed & Politics State Supreme Court splits along party lines to hear voter ID case in October


HbAD0

Latest Op-Ed & Politics

A local man is struggling to rid himself of his job despite ramping up his "quiet quitting" efforts over the last several weeks. Reports indicate that these challenges are likely the result of him being incredibly lazy at work from the very beginning.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘ (R) campaign blasted Vice President Kamala Harris (D) Friday afternoon over remarks that she made suggesting that the administration is working to prioritize distributing relief funds for natural disasters based in part on race.
Every day the Biden Border Crisis gets worse, but who continues to remain silent on it?
Vice President Kamala Harris (D) faced backlash online Friday afternoon after saying that the Biden administration was prioritizing giving disaster relief to minorities for the sake of “equity” because the administration wants everyone to end up “in an equal place.”
Trudeau ban includes bolt action rifles as "assault weapons"
The clown emoji 🤡 held a press conference Monday with the express purpose of distancing itself from Democrats who, according to the clown emoji, have caused significant harm to its brand and livelihood.

HbAD1

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) warned those who are thinking about looting in the wake of Hurricane Ian that they are putting their lives at risk as the state supports citizens using the Second Amendment.
North Dakota prosecutors on Friday leveled a murder charge against the man who allegedly ran down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson earlier this month because he was a “Republican extremist” and had threatened him.
Ukrainian forces roll down west bank of Dnipro River as Russians retreat
Despite installing a new "Trinity Wishbone" offense during fall camp, PragerU has once again found itself dead last in the NCAA after a 94-0 drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators.

HbAD2

Hurricane Ian barreled into South Carolina on Friday afternoon, threatening Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and other coastal cities with 7-foot storm surges and massive – and potentially deadly – flooding.

HbAD3

 
Back to Top