Like some or many, but not all, states, North Carolina disqualifies otherwise eligible voters from voting if they have been convicted of a felony and are still in prison or on probation or parole.
But a panel of three superior court judges just ruled that North Carolina’s felon voter disqualification law is partially (but not completely) unconstitutional.
The court ruled that, because North Carolina’s constitution explicitly prohibits “property qualifications” related to voting rights, persons who have been convicted of a felony and have been released from prison and/or satisfied the conditions of their probation or parole except for paying court costs and fees cannot be barred from voting.
This means that unless the court’s order is stayed pending appeal, thousands of former felons who have “done their time” and completed their sentences (other than paying court costs and fees) will be eligible to vote in the fall election.
That’s great news. But it’s just a first step. And it’s important to remember that, at least in the South, state voter disqualification laws based on felony convictions are the racist legacy of the Jim Crow ers.
That’s why, North Carolina needs to follow the example of sixteen (16) states (including North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, New Hampshire, and New Jersey) that automatically restore the voting rights of felons as soon as they are released from prison. Or, better yet, we could join Maine and Vermont in completing eliminating voting disqualifications for felons.