Court rules in favor of voting rights for paroleesBy Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / August 27, 2021
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It was an elated Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman who shared the news in a statement Monday about a major voting rights court victory:
“A three-judge Superior Court panel modified its preliminary injunction today in CSI v. Moore, the lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s disenfranchisement of people living in communities across the state on felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision,” Rev. Spearman said.
“Today’s ruling allows all North Carolinians on community supervision for felony convictions to begin to register to vote and vote in North Carolina elections immediately,” he continued. “During the trial last week, plaintiffs argued that the law discriminates against Black people in both its historical intent and its effect today, excluding them from full participation in our democracy. This ruling represents the largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ― restoring voting rights to over 56,000 North Carolinians living in communities across the state.”
The immediate reaction was overwhelming from social justice advocates, especially in the Black community.
“This is an outstanding victory for those individuals, all citizens and mostly African Americans and other racial minorities, who have been prevented from voting for decades as a result of an unconstitutional application of the law,” remarked Atty. Irv Joyner, chairman of the N.C. NAACP’s Legal Redress Committee.
“The racial impact to this voter suppression is obvious and now, a significant segment of our population has been empowered to begin a full-measure of political participation.”
Atty. Joyner continued, “I expect the state to appeal this decision, but pray that they decide not to do so. 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.”As a former felon, Dennis Gaddy, the founder and executive director of Community Success Initiative, a nonprofit program for the formerly incarcerated and plaintiff in the case, shared what it felt like not to have the right to vote, not to have a voice at the ballot box when he sorely wanted one.
Fifty-six thousand people are now re-enfranchised…where they will have a vote, and a say in their own lives,” Gaddy told reporters during a Zoom press conference Monday, later adding that at least 22,000 more former felons are expected to be released in the coming year and will have the right to vote the moment they are released.
Gaddy went on to tell how after his release in 2005, he was unable to vote for seven years because he was on probation, meaning he was legally prohibited from voting for the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008.
“I…was…devastated,” Gaddy expressed, noting that from this day forth, CSI can counsel its formerly incarcerated clients that they automatically have the right to vote if they choose to exercise it.
Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served, another Raleigh-based nonprofit community advocate, was also elated.
“I’m just so excited…can’t wait to start spreading the good news, that history has been made in North Carolina,” Powell said smiling.