Raleigh, N.C. (Feb. 14, 2022) — A lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s strict liability voter prosecution law, criminalizing voting by people with a felony conviction if they are ineligible, even if unintentional, has been recommended to be allowed to continue, according to Monday’s ruling from a magistrate judge.
On Monday, Magistrate Judge Joe Webster recommended that the N.C. District Attorneys’ Motion to Dismiss the case be denied, allowing organizations like the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, Inc. and Action NC who engage in robust voter registration efforts, to continue challenging the law. Passed in 1877, voting rights advocates say the law represents the last surviving vestige of post-Reconstruction measures meant to disenfranchise Black people.
Mitchell Brown, Voting Rights Counsel with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the organization representing NC APRI and Action NC, responded to the ruling, calling it “a victory for voters.”
“This nearly 150-year-old Jim Crow law forces North Carolina voters and advocates alike to interpret a complex web of state election laws and criminal codes. The law leaves everyone from parole officers to poll workers to justice-involved people unclear about the process of re-enfranchisement and without due process to vote,” said Brown. “Today’s ruling is a victory for voters bringing us one step closer to justice for people who have, for too long, been criminalized for just casting a ballot.”
Judge Webster’s recommendation now heads to District Court Judge Loretta Biggs for her approval. Judge Biggs serves the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.