Legislative Leaders Appeal Eleventh-Hour Court Decision Rewriting Felon Voting Law
Three-judge panel threw out decades-old law and replaced it with its own preferred policy
Ruling coincidentally came out just as the State Board of Elections started sending out absentee ballots
Sen. Daniel: “This is an unrivaled attempt by judges to legislate from the bench”
Raleigh, N.C. — Today, legislative leaders filed a motion to block a ruling throwing out a decades-old law outlining how felons can regain their right to vote.
The decision from a divided three-judge panel came just as absentee voting started, even though judges had more than six months to issue the written order.
This isn’t the first time the court has disrupted election procedure when up against a deadline. In late August 2021, when the same three-judge panel issued its verbal order entitling about 55,000 felons to register to vote, it did so just days before the State Board of Elections needed to finalize materials for the 2021 municipal elections.
This week’s ruling again puts a time crunch on an appeal before the 2022 elections.
“This is an unrivaled attempt by judges to legislate from the bench,” Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) said. “Piece-by-piece the courts are chipping away at the legislature’s constitutional duty to set election policy in this state and seizing that authority for themselves.”
The North Carolina Constitution prohibits felons from voting unless the General Assembly passes a re-enfranchisement law. In 1973, Democrats, led by three African American legislators with the support of the NAACP, passed a law outlining how felons can regain their right to vote.
This week, a three-judge panel struck down that law and described it as racist. That ruling means North Carolina does not have a law allowing felons to regain their right to vote.
However, instead of just striking down the law, two of the three judges wrote a new law allowing all felons not currently serving an active sentence to register to vote.
Simply put, this ruling substitutes the preferred policy of two county judges for state law.
The General Assembly has not voted on a new process for felons to regain their right to vote, nor has Gov. Cooper signed anything into law.
The only people who have approved this policy change are two trial court judges that represent a small fraction of our residents.