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Arnold & Porter Secures Groundbreaking Voting Rights Win in North Carolina

August 24, 2021

Arnold & Porter obtained a successful ruling from the North Carolina Superior Court that immediately restores voting rights to over 56,000 people who are living in communities across the State on felony probation, parole, or supervised release. These individuals were previously barred from voting under North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law tracing back to the 1860s and 1870s. This groundbreaking win makes North Carolina the first state in the American South to eliminate this vestige of Jim Crow voter suppression.

In November 2019, Arnold & Porter filed suit in conjunction with nonprofit groups Forward Justice and Protect Democracy to challenge North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law that disproportionately prevented Black citizens from exercising their right to vote. The team argued that the law violated the state’s constitution for discriminating against Black citizens in both intent and effect. They also argued that the law unconstitutionally acted as a poll tax in denying voting rights to people on probation, parole, or post-release supervision solely due to failure to pay fees, fines, or restitution.

In September 2020, the three-judge panel granted a partial summary judgment that conditioning voting rights on payment of monetary obligations is unconstitutional. The panel issued an injunction restoring voting rights to people on supervision due solely to money ahead of the November 2020 elections.

After a week-long trial in August 2021, the three-judge panel expanded the right to vote to all North Carolinians who live in communities on some form of supervision. As a result, any person on felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision from a federal or state conviction can register to vote, now.

The Arnold & Porter team was led by partners R. Stanton Jones and Elisabeth Theodore.

This case has been widely covered by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press, among others.