RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina appeals court has blocked an order that had allowed well over 50,000 felony offenders who aren’t serving prison or jail time to immediately register to vote and cast ballots.
The state Court of Appeals agreed on Friday to halt last week’s decision by trial judges to expand when North Carolina residents convicted of felonies have the right to vote again.
The plaintiffs immediately appealed Friday’s decision to the state Supreme Court. The actions come as early voting in fall municipal elections begins soon.
Civil rights groups and ex-offenders have challenged state law on when voting rights are restored.
Last Friday, a panel of state trial judges refused to halt its order restoring voting rights for tens of thousands of convicted of felonies whose current punishments don’t include prison time.
The three judges on Aug. 27 denied the delay sought by top Republican lawmakers on the same day the panel’s majority explained why they authorized voting access for potentially 56,000 offenders in North Carolina.
GOP lawmakers wanted the temporary delay while they appeal the ruling. The judges last Friday mentioned in their order that the history of felony disenfranchisement included efforts during Reconstruction to prevent Black residents from voting.
Several civil rights groups and ex-offenders sued lawmakers and state officials in 2019, saying restrictions created in the 1970s are unconstitutional. The law says felons can register once they complete all aspects of their sentence, including probation and parole.