California Attorney General Joins Coalition in Amicus Brief Supporting Voting Rights of Previously Incarcerated Felons in North Carolina


By Wayne Chan

OAKLAND, CA — Joining a coalition of 15 attorneys general across the country, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed an amicus brief last week urging the North Carolina Supreme Court to reaffirm a trial court decision that restored voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals in the state.

Community Success Initiative v. Moore was a challenge to the North Carolina statute that prohibited people previously convicted of a felony from voting until the terms of probation, parole and any legal financial obligations are fulfilled.

In practice, this statute often disenfranchised people years after their sentence ended because of people’s inability to afford the heavy fees and costs related to trial.

The coalition asserts a few key points in the amicus brief:

  • The statute challenged in the trial is counterproductive toward efforts of expanding voting rights;
  • Evidence shows that restoring the right to vote for previously incarcerated individuals encourages civic engagement which improves public safety;
  • The statute does not promote traditional criminal justice goals, and, disenfranchisement has been shown by studies to correlate with increased recidivism;
  • Systems that automatically restore voting rights upon release are generally less costly and confusing than systems like North Carolina’s.

Attorney General Bonta stated, “Democracy requires full-throated participation to work. For far too long, the right to vote has been stripped away from people of color through the criminal legal system. Laws—like North Carolina’s—that inequitably restrict access to the ballot box only serve to weaken our ability to respond appropriately to the needs of all our communities.”

Bonta added, “It’s time to correct these disenfranchisement laws that don’t support public safety and contradict our democratic values. I urge the North Carolina Supreme Court to affirm the trial court’s decision to restore access to the right to vote for formerly incarcerated North Carolinians.”

In 2020, an estimated 5.2 million people in the U.S. could not vote in the general election because of state laws that prohibited individuals convicted of a felony from voting. Supporters of extending voting rights note that this disenfranchisement is caused by a diverse patchwork of state laws.

Laws similar to the North Carolina statute often disproportionately affect communities of color, these voting rights proponents argue, and not only do some people lose their ability to vote, but entire communities lose their voting powers and opportunities to influence unique issues they face.

Because of these concerns, maintain voting rights supporters, a trend has emerged in recent years to avoid broadly restricting voting rights of previously incarcerated individuals. Many states, including California, now automatically restore voting rights upon release.


About The Author

Wayne Chan is a 4th year philosophy student at University at California, Davis. He has a passion for reading and writing. After graduation, he wishes to pursue a career in law.

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