RALEIGH (Sept. 10, 2020) — A September 4 ruling from three Superior Court judges will restore voting rights for thousands of previously disenfranchised North Carolinians.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that the law NCGS 13-1 violates the North Carolina Constitution by denying the right to vote to people who cannot pay their court costs. Because those who are unable to pay these costs often have their probation period extended, and thus are disenfranchised for a longer period of time than they would be if they could pay the fees, the court found the law to be in violation of both the Equal Protection clause and the ban on property qualification guaranteed under the constitution.
“The court’s ruling is important because it recognizes the harsh reality of disproportionate treatment of people in poverty, especially within the criminal legal system,” explained Laura Holland, an attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice project. “Although the decision did not provide all the relief sought by the plaintiffs, thousands of people are likely to have their right to vote restored in time for the upcoming election.”
The North Carolina Justice Center has long fought against the criminalization or mistreatment of people living in poverty and submitted an amicus brief in the case. By helping to restore voting rights, this preliminary injunction is an important step toward equal treatment of all North Carolinians under the law, regardless of their economic status.