RALEIGH, N.C. — A panel of North Carolina judges is prepared to allow tens of thousands of residents convicted of felonies but whose current punishments don’t include prison time to register to vote and cast ballots.
The three-judge panel on Monday said it had voted 2-to-1 on the ruling. A judge hearing a trial last week said Monday that a panel majority would issue an order soon allowing more felony offenders to vote.
The current law in North Carolina says felons can only register to vote once they complete all aspects of their sentence, including probation and parole — something that can take several years to complete.
Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders sued lawmakers and state officials in 2019, saying restrictions created in the 1970s are unconstitutional.
Daryl Atkinson, a lawyer in the case and the co-director of the Forward Justice civil rights group, said during a press conference Monday championed the decision as one of the largest expansions of voting rights since the 1965 Voting Rights Acts.
“This lawsuit was about us making sure that we include the 56,000 North Carolinians living in our community, paying taxes, dropping kids at school are included in ‘We, the people,'” Atkinson said.
Republican lawmakers in the state said Monday that they planned to appeal the decision.