North Carolina Supreme Court hears arguments in felon voting rights case

Jamiese Price Image
Thursday, February 2, 2023
North Carolina Supreme Court hears arguments in felon voting rights case
A 1973 law previously prevented felons from voting as a person on post release from their felony conviction.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nasheila Haywood still remembers the first time she voted and that's because it wasn't that long ago.

"It was so exciting," said Haywood. "It was kind of exhilarating. It was like kind of a rush of I can do this now."

Voting was far removed from Haywood's mind back when she was serving time in prison. She was released in 2017 and five years later, she was able to vote in the 2022 Midterm Election.

It was the first time the 38-year-old ever cast a ballot. That's because a 1973 law previously prevented her from voting as a person on post release from her felony conviction.

But in July, Haywood got her voice back and became eligible to vote along with 56,000 North Carolinians with felonies who were still on probation, parole, or other post supervision.

"I'm a homeowner. I made a mistake, but now I'm a whole different person. I'm a business owner, and I'm a homeowner and I'm a mother just like you. Give me a second chance to be a normal citizen of society," said Haywood.

Now her voting privilege could be stripped once again. Thursday, a case went before the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Community Success Initiative v. Moore could determine the voting future of people, like Haywood who have felony records and are still serving parole or probation.

Attorney and Co-Director for Forward Justice Daryl Atkins argued before the Supreme Court that people convicted of a felony would have to pay handsomely in fees, fines, court costs, and restitution before they were legally viewed as 'restored" in order to vote.

"Give me a second chance to be a normal citizen of society"

"This law was enacted with the intent an effect of discriminating against African-Americans. It is having that effect by extremely wide margins across this state today," said Forward Justice Attorney Stanton Jones.

Speaker Moore's Attorney Peter Patterson says the issue at hand is not discriminatory, but a constitutional one.

"Felons do not have a fundamental right to vote. The state constitution expressly says that they are disenfranchised unless and until they are re-enfranchised in the manner prescribed by law," said Patterson.

Orrin Jackson's voice also matters. Eyewitness News met him in July at Halifax Mall when he got the news. He could vote for the first time after serving 31 years in prison.

"It was very exciting because it was something I had never done before, and like I said, being in prison, we do study legislation. We do study how bills become law. I know the reason why I'm voting," Jackson said.

He is also advocating for his voting rights to remain in place, sharing with others why his voice and vote matters.

"A lot of times in the state level elections, you would keep judges off the bench who would even take up a case like this," Jackson said.