NC Appellate Court blocks lower court ruling on former felons voting
By Cash Michaels
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders wasted no time last week moving to have the NC Appeals Court to reverse a three-judge Superior Court panel’s injunctive order Sept. 3rd to restore the voting rights of approximately 56,000 former felons on parole. It will be the seven-member N.C. Supreme Court that will hear the plaintiff’s appeal of that decision.
Democrats retain a one-vote majority on the state’s High Court - 4 to 3.
Plaintiffs maintain that the historic denial of voting rights to ex-felons is rooted in racial discrimination. The Superior Court panel agreed.
When State Attorney Gen. Josh Stein refused to appeal the appellate order (he said because no written order from the Superior Court had been issued), outraged Republican legislative leaders House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger hired outside counsel to challenge the Superior Court’s injunctive order.
It was a legal move that plaintiffs had expected from the moment they were informed that they had won the original injunctive order.
“This case is a matter of statewide and national significance, requiring immediate action from the state’s highest Court,” plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a written statement. “Hundreds of North Carolinians are exercising a new right to vote in this state, encouraged and inspired by the three-judge panel decision — we will not rest until their rights are fully vindicated.”
The statement continued, “We have full faith that justice delayed today will not be justice denied for the plaintiffs, the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, and the entire State of North Carolina,” plaintiffs continued. “The collective will of the state is stifled when so many of our citizens are unjustifiably not able to participate in our democracy.
“That exclusion of our neighbors’ voices is morally and constitutionally wrong.”
NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee Chair Atty. Irving Joyner added, “North Carolina ought to be a State where we can have pride in the fact that all of our citizens can vote and fully participate in the political franchise.”
Republicans, on the other hand, maintain that it was a Democrat-controlled N.C General Assembly 48 years-ago that took voting rights away from former felons in 1973, and outline how they can retain them. That was the law, and judges should not be able to arbitrarily throw out laws they don’t like.
Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) said, “The decision to block the lower court’s ruling affirms that judges can’t just replace laws they don’t like with new ones. It also shows how false Attorney General Josh Stein’s purported reason was for refusing to defend the legislature in this case.”