The N.C. Supreme Court on Friday ordered in the Community Success Initiative v. Moore case that, until further order of the court, the voting eligibility rules for people serving a felony sentence should return to the rules in place for the November 2020 elections. The court made an exception, however, for anyone serving a felony sentence on community supervision who registered to vote while a court order was in place expanding the eligibility rules (from August 23 to September 3, 2021).
Generally, under state law, people who are serving a felony sentence, including any period of community supervision like probation or post-release supervision, cannot register or vote until their sentence ends. However, because of a 2020 court order in this case, those who are serving a felony sentence on community supervision are eligible to register and vote, if their community supervision was extended and the reason they remain under supervision is failure to pay a financial obligation associated with their sentence.
On August 23, 2021, a North Carolina superior court expanded this earlier decision and ordered that all felons on community supervision be permitted to register and vote. This would include people on felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision. However, on September 3, 2021, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered a halt to that decision while it is on appeal. Last Friday’s decision from the N.C. Supreme Court affirms the halt put in place by the Court of Appeals, with one exception. The Supreme Court’s order allows any felon on community supervision who registered between August 23 and September 3, 2021, to remain registered and vote until further order of the court.
This means that the 55,000-plus North Carolinians who became eligible to vote by the superior court’s ruling on August 23 are no longer eligible to register or vote, unless they registered to vote between August 23 and September 3, 2021.
To reiterate the current rules in place, you cannot register to vote or vote in North Carolina if you are serving a sentence for a felony conviction, whether you are serving that sentence in prison or on community supervision such as probation, parole, or post-release supervision. There are two exceptions:
- First, you are eligible to vote if you registered to vote between August 23, 2021, and September 3, 2021, and you were not in prison or jail serving a felony sentence on the date you registered.
- Second, you are eligible to register and vote while serving a felony sentence if you meet all the following conditions:
- You are serving an extended term of probation, parole, or post-release supervision,
- You have outstanding fines, fees, or restitution, AND
- You know of no other reason for the extension of your period of supervision, other than the fines, fees, or restitution.
If you meet all three of these conditions, then you may register and vote.