An 1877 law created to stop newly free Black residents from voting was found unconstitutional by a state court last week. The News & Observer reported that North Carolina will join the common practice of allowing people to register to vote once they complete their prison sentence.
This ruling addressed the state law allowing people with felony convictions to vote only once they finish their sentence; including probation or parole, which sometimes can last for years after an individual returns home from prison.
According to the challenger’s attorney, Stan Lee, police in the post civil-war era round-up free Black people, charging them with bogus crimes in order to exclude them from voting. The laws were spearheaded by a state lawmaker who had fought for the Confederacy and had led the lynchings of at least three Black people.
The News & Observer reported that the “judges found the law unconstitutional for generally violating people’s rights, the judges wrote Monday, but also for being explicitly targeted at Black people. Specifically, they wrote that the law “was enacted with the intent of discriminating against African American people and has a demonstrably disproportionate and discriminatory impact.”
An estimated 55,000 North Carolinians could be impacted by the change in the law. Darryl Atkinson, co-director of Forward Justice, wrote “this landmark decision is the largest expansion of voting rights in NC since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Read more from the News & Observer.