sunny.png
Sunday August 1st, 2021 11:57AM

Court: Money owed can't block voting rights for NC felons

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

A North Carolina court ruled Friday that outstanding restitution, fees or other court-imposed monetary obligations can't prevent convicted felons from voting if they've completed all other portions of their sentence.

The ruling, which may face appeals, could pave the way for an influx of felons to have their voting rights restored amid hotly contested races for the presidency and U.S. Senate in the battleground state. It wasn't immediately how many were affected by the ruling.

“Today’s decision is a victory for North Carolina voters and for democracy,” said Farbod Faraji of Protect Democracy, who was one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Lawyers representing the state government defendants didn’t immediately respond to an email Friday asking whether they intended to appeal.

The three-judge panel of Wake County Superior Court, which was considering a challenge to state law governing the restoration of voting rights, declined to settle the lawsuit's arguments that probation, parole and post-release supervision are also unfair impediments to voting for those who have completed their incarceration. The judges said further proceedings were needed to address those issues.

In North Carolina, felons can register to vote again once they complete all aspects of their sentence, which can range from prison time to court fees or restitution.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that a portion of state law requiring felons to pay all monetary obligations before voting again violates the state constitution because it conditions the ability to cast a ballot on one's financial means.

In the majority opinion, the judges note that the state constitution requires that one's property, or financial means, must not affect their ability to vote. Yet, under current state law, “the ability for a person convicted of a felony to vote is conditioned on whether that person possesses, at minimum, a monetary amount equal to any fees, fines and debts assessed as a result of that person's felony conviction,” the judges wrote in the opinion.

Therefore, they ruled that the provision of state law regarding the payment of financial obligations violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution. A separate preliminary injunction issued Friday bars the state from stopping felons from registering to vote if the only remaining portion of their sentence is satisfying a monetary obligation.

An attorney for the plaintiffs has previously told the judges that an estimated 56,000 felons who completed their incarceration still couldn't vote because of other unfinished aspects of their sentence. It wasn't immediately clear how many of those were prevented from voting solely because of monetary obligations and would benefit from Friday's ruling.

The plaintiffs, which include advocacy groups and several ex-offenders seeking to vote again, have argued that the 1970s-era state law on restoration of voting rights disproportionately hurts minorities and is racially discriminatory. The plaintiffs have said that African Americans represent 42% of the people on probation, parole and post-release supervision in North Carolina and are unable to vote, even though they make up 21% of the state’s voting-age population.

State lawyers representing legislative leaders and state elections board members have said the law doesn't violate constitutional rights because it treats all people convicted of felonies the same by withholding the right to vote.

___

Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/JonathanLDrew

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Suspect in Portland protest killing dies in hail of gunfire
A man who said he believed a civil war was coming to America and was suspected of killing a right-wing protester in Portland, Oregon, has died in a hail of police gunfire in neighboring Washington state
7:23PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Alleged Boogaloo members face terrorism charges in Minnesota
Two men who prosecutors say are anti-government extremists who toted guns on the streets of Minneapolis during the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd have been charged with federal terrorism counts
7:18PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Court: Money owed can't block voting rights for NC felons
A North Carolina court has ruled that outstanding restitution, fees or other court-imposed monetary obligations can’t prevent convicted felons from voting if they’ve completed all other portions of their sentence
7:11PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
In Barr, Trump has powerful ally for challenging mail voting
As President Donald Trump sows doubt about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, he’s found a powerful partner in that effort in Attorney General William Barr
5:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump won't let Pentagon close Stars and Stripes newspaper
The Pentagon’s plan to shut down the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, hit a major roadblock Friday, as President Donald Trump announced that he won’t allow that on his watch
5:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft as winner of disputed JEDI deal
The Pentagon has reaffirmed tech giant Microsoft as winner of a cloud computing contract potentially worth $10 billion
5:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Groups ask for restraining order to stop census wind-down
A day after the U.S. Census Bureau said that it has already taken steps to wind down operations for the 2020 census, a coalition of cities and civil rights groups is trying to stop the statistical agency in its tracks
2:13PM ( 5 hours ago )
Pentagon orders shutdown of Stars and Stripes newspaper
The Pentagon has ordered the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, to cease publication at the end of the month
1:19PM ( 6 hours ago )
UN experts raise concerns over Hong Kong security law
Seven human rights experts affiliated with the U.N. are raising concerns over Hong Kong’s new national security law in a letter addressed to Chinese authorities, saying the legislation limits certain fundamental freedoms
5:45AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Suspect in Portland protest killing dies in hail of gunfire
A man who said he believed a civil war was coming to America and was suspected of killing a right-wing protester in Portland, Oregon, has died in a hail of police gunfire in neighboring Washington state
7:23PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Alleged Boogaloo members face terrorism charges in Minnesota
Two men who prosecutors say are anti-government extremists who toted guns on the streets of Minneapolis during the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd have been charged with federal terrorism counts
7:18PM ( 12 minutes ago )
US Forest Service police dog survives second stabbing attack
A highly decorated U.S. Forest Service police dog suffered nine stab wounds during a marijuana raid in Northern California
7:07PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Utah police frustrated with anti-law enforcement sentiment
Police groups in Utah have called for The Salt Lake Tribune to apologize after it published an editorial cartoon implying white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement
6:54PM ( 36 minutes ago )
Acuña hits 2 HRs as surging Braves beat struggling Nats 7-1
Ronald Acuña Jr. homered twice, Dansby Swanson added a two-run shot and the Atlanta Braves beat the struggling Washington Nationals 7-1 in the first game of a doubleheader
6:52PM ( 38 minutes ago )