A North Carolina woman was subjected to a tactical-style assault on her home by the police this past July and arrested on an open warrant that she didn’t even know existed. She now faces up to 19 months behind bars.
Her crime was voting in the 2016 presidential election while on parole.
The vast majority of states — 48 out of 50 — strip criminal defendants who are convicted of felonies of their voting rights. When — or if — they can ever legally cast a ballot again varies greatly from state to state.
Felon voter laws rose largely out of post-Civil War fears over the growing political rights of African Americans. The voter suppression laws worked to disenfranchise black voters back then — and they still do so today.
In North Carolina, it’s illegal to register to vote or cast a ballot until you have completed your entire sentence — including any period of parole or probation. The problem is that this is seldom communicated to the convicted either when they’re in court or afterward. In addition, state officials have acknowledged that there is no official method of informing people when they’re unable to vote. Back in 2016, even the voter registration forms in that state failed to make the issue clear.
This is not an isolated case. There are at least 400 other people in the state that also voted illegally in 2016, and prosecutors are still deciding how to proceed with many of those cases. In 2018, 12 people in the state were prosecuted merely for voting by mistake while still barred due to their felonies.
Defense attorneys in the present case and others argue that the charges should be tossed out of court because they’re discriminatory. Voter suppression laws have a disparate impact on black voters — just as they were intended.
If you’ve been charged with a felony in North Carolina, talk to an attorney today about possible defenses. The only way to defeat the charges against you is to fight back.