We are disappointed but not deterred. We stood at the General Assembly on May 2nd to make our voices heard and we'll continue our fight for equal access to our democracy.
What are the next steps, what should we do now?
On April 28, 2023, in a 5 to 2 decision split along partisan and racial lines, the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned our victory in CSI. V. Moore, stripping voting rights away from thousands of North Carolinians with prior convictions. This means that anyone currently on probation, parole, or post-release supervision is NO LONGER eligible to register and vote in North Carolina until they have completed all of the terms of their probation, parole, or post-release supervision, including any payment of fines and fees.
Because the case is a state-based case, it cannot be taken up by the U.S. Supreme court. The North Carolina Supreme Court is the court that had the final say so.
Did you come out to register during freedom summer? Want to tell us your story?
Unlock Our Vote Freedom Summer Tour Coalition partners:
Advance NC, Black Voters Matter, Community Success Initiative, Emancipate Votes, Forward Justice Action Network, Justice Served NC, NC ACLU, NC Community Bail Fund of Durham, NC Justice Center, NC NAACP, NC Second Chance Alliance, Poor People’s Campaign, Repairers of the Breach, Wash Away Unemployment, You Can Vote
Overview of the campaign and case
The Unlock Our Vote campaign centers on ensuring that thousands of people in our state directly impacted by the criminal legal system have a civic voice and are able to participate in our democracy. Our democracy cannot be truly representative of the will of the people with so many of our community members disenfranchised and unable to participate in the democratic process. Forward Justice launched the Unlock Our Vote campaign in an effort to expand the “We” in “We the people” and make our democracy more inclusive and representative.
In November 2019, Forward Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of four organizational plaintiffs and six individual plaintiffs in Wake County Superior Court, seeking to reinstate voting rights for over 55,000 North Carolinians previously convicted of felonies who live in our communities but had not been restored the right to vote due to an unconstitutional felony disenfranchisement law.
- In September 2020, a three-judge panel issued a preliminary injunction ruling that an inability to pay court fines and fees should not impact a person’s right to register and vote. Thousands of people on community supervision whose probation or parole had been extended due to inability to pay court fines and fees were able to register to vote.
- During the trial that began August 16th, 2021, our Co-Director Daryl Atkinson argued that the existing law is racially discriminatory in its intent and has a disparate impact on Black people, excluding them from full participation in our democracy.
- On August 23rd, 2021, a three-judge panel modified the existing preliminary injunction in the case, allowing all North Carolinians on probation, parole, or post-release supervision for felony convictions to immediately begin to register to vote and vote in North Carolina elections.
- On September 3rd, 2021, a panel of the NC Court of Appeals issued an order halting the CSI v. Moore amended Preliminary Injunction. The entire superior court panel unanimously denied an earlier request for a stay from the Legislative Defendants; but the Court of Appeals order blocks more than 56,000 people in North Carolina, disproportionately African American, from accessing their fundamental right to vote – on the eve of municipal elections.
- On September 10th, 2021, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied our request to fully reinstate the voting rights restoration injunction won on August 23rd. While we are disappointed in that decision, we are pleased that all people on felony probation, parole, or post release supervision who registered to vote from August 23rd to September 3rd must be considered eligible voters and will be able to vote legally.
- On March 28th, 2022, the Court ruled 2-1 that the state’s current felony disenfranchisement law violates two clauses of the state constitution, unlocking the votes of over 55,000 North Carolinians with Felony Convictions.
- On April 5th, 2022, the NC Court of Appeals issued an order halting the CSI v. Moore Final Order. The superior/trial court panel denied the legislative defendants’ request for a stay; but the NC Court of Appeals order blocks more than 56,000 people in North Carolina, disproportionately African American, from accessing their fundamental right to vote, until further review by the court. While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we are prepared to continue this fight to protect voting rights. We have filed a bypass petition to take this case directly to the NC Supreme Court.
- On April 26th, 2022, The North Carolina Court of Appeals partially granted defendants’ request to stay, or halt, an order expanding voting rights- but only through the upcoming primary elections on May 17th and July 26th, 2022. After that, the court ordered that the State Board of Elections (SBOE) must fully implement the trial court’s March 28th final judgment and order, and allow people with prior felony convictions, who are not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction, to register and vote. While plaintiffs and advocates were advocating for a full denial of the request for a stay at the Court of Appeals – and are continuing to press for full review by the North Carolina Supreme Court –they say that this most recent ruling moves them one step closer to the full restoration of voting rights for community members who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system.
- On April 28th, 2023, in a 5 to 2 decision, split along partisan and racial lines, the North Carolina Supreme Court stripped voting rights away from thousands of North Carolinians with prior convictions, disproportionately African Americans, who had their right to register and cast a ballot restored by Court order on July 27, 2022, some 276 days.
Resources and information
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