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NC Supreme Court overturns lower court, blocks those with felonies on parole or probation from voting

A "vote here" sign marks the entrance to an early voting station in downtown Minneapolis in 2018.
Steve Karnowski
The court struck down a ruling that said people with felony convictions could vote after being released from prison but while still on parole or probation.

The North Carolina Supreme Court recently overturned a lower court decision on when people convicted of felonies are allowed to vote.

Last year, the courts ruled that people with felony convictions could vote after being released from prison but while still on parole or probation.

This NC Supreme Court ruling on April 28 means that those people will have to wait until their entire sentence is completed before they can vote.

That includes people who may be still paying fines as part of their sentence. In New Hanover County, the ruling affects almost 1800 people–that’s according to Daquan Peters, business owner and Second Chance Alliance coordinator in New Hanover County.

Peters said he wasn’t surprised by the Supreme Court decision.

“Why would I be surprised, we’re still dealing with the same individuals from the 1800s, but just in a different time?” he said. “They are still operating on the same white supremacist mentality.”

The lower court said preventing people on parole or probation from voting was unconstitutional and disproportionately affected Black people.

The Supreme Court’s written opinion said the lower court didn’t have enough evidence to justify that ruling–hence the overturning.

The decision also means that even if someone voted in the last election under the previous ruling, they’re no longer eligible to vote until they’ve met all the terms of their sentence.

This decision is one of three from the recently turned majority-Republican court that met support from many Republicans and concern from Democrats.

The court ruled that thedecision to strike downNC’s former voter ID law for disproportionately affecting Black people was wrong. Now, photo ID is required for voting in the next election.

Another previous ruling struck down the legislature’s latest redistricting map. The state Supreme Court reversed that decision on the basis that courts should not be involved in the redistricting process, according to WUNC.

Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger released a statement about the decisions, which said in part: “Today's rulings affirm that our Constitution cannot be exploited to fit the political whims of left-wing Democrats."

Grace is a multimedia journalist recently graduated from American University. She's attracted to issues of inequity and her reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, she's investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast, and produced student-led video stories.