State Board: Felons May Not Vote

Following some confusion during the 2022 elections and a pending court case, state elections officials are reminding convicted felons that they may not cast a vote until all terms of their sentences are complete.

North Carolinians convicted of felonies who have not completed their sentences,  including any jail or prison term, as well as any periods of probation, parole, or post-release supervision – are not permitted to register to vote or vote in the state the State Bord of Elections (SBOE) said in a press release Thursday.

The reminder was sent out as early voting gets underway in the second primary elections for lt. governor, state auditor, and two house races in other parts of the state. Only the Republican nominations for the state cabinet positions are on the ballot in Columbus County, and only Republicans or unaffiliated voters who cast a ballot in March may vote.

On Jan. 1, a new state law took effect making it a crime to vote while serving a felony sentence, if the voter knows they are not permitted to vote. Previously, state law made it a crime for a person serving a felony sentence to vote, even if they did not know that was against the law.

In 2020, some convicted but not incarcerated felons were registered to vote during voter registration drives led by non-profit organizations. State BoE officials have never determined exactly how many, if any, of the felons cast a ballot.

An April 22 ruling from the federal district court for the Middle District of North Carolina did not change the current law. Instead, it invalidated the old law that made it a crime to vote while serving a felony sentence, regardless of the individual’s knowledge of the law.

The effect of this court order is to prohibit the prosecution of anyone who voted while serving a felony sentence prior to January 2024, when the old law was in effect.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands the current law as it pertains to voting by people in the criminal justice system,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “The recent court decision applies to an old law. The current law does not allow someone who is serving a felony sentence to vote. Once they complete their sentence, they are allowed to register and vote in North Carolina.”

Once their period of supervision is over, a person convicted of a felony automatically regains the right to vote. They must still register to vote, even if they were previously registered prior to their felony conviction.

If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor in North Carolina, they do not lose the right to vote.

For more information, see https://www.ncsbe.gov/registering/who-can-register/registering-person-criminal-justice-system

About Jefferson Weaver 2033 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].