Felons can now vote in NC after court decision goes into effect

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Thursday, July 28, 2022
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Dozens sign up to vote at the "Unlock Our Vote Freedom" campaign after NC court decision giving felons right to vote goes into effect Wednesday.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- DaQuan Peters got to register to vote for the first time Wednesday.

"This means I could now sign a form and vote and be able to be part of a democracy," said Peters, who is on federal probation.

Peters was at Halifax Mall as dozens signed up to vote at the "Unlock Our Vote Freedom" campaign.

Earlier in the year a North Carolina superior court determined that denying voting rights to people serving their felony sentences outside of jail or prison violates the state constitution.

The decision has been appealed but while it's on appeal, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered the decision go into effect Wednesday so nearly 60,000 people can now vote.

Advocates meantime are launching a campaign across the state to get as many people registered as possible.

Previously anyone serving time or charged with a felony couldn't vote until they completed their sentence.

On Wednesday, social justice advocates including Reverend William Barber celebrated the day.

Barber said it was the biggest expansion of voting rights since the 1960s.

"This day means a lot to me because I'm recently released from prison," said Orrin Jackson, who spent 31 years in prison before getting out a year ago. "To be able to get an opportunity and know that my vote is real, and I can register and I can vote it's a very exciting process."

Political experts agree that this new block of more than 56,000 voters leans Democratic.

Some believe it's a hard group to motivate though.

"There is a lot of information already about the impact of this decision and I'd expect people would be highly motivated in light of the decision by the court," said Irv Joyner, professor of law at NCCU.

He believes the historic decision could impact races across the state.

"I think people will remember that there's a huge fight to keep them from having this right to vote, but the Constitution does not endorse this notion of dispossession or disestablishing people from voting," Joyner said.