Last updated September 20, 2020
Our nation was founded on the right for every citizen to have a voice in the government, specifically in the right to choose the people who represent and govern. Of course, the definition of “citizen” has changed over the past two centuries, and for many Americans, the right to vote only came after hard-fought battles. One group of people who have been disenfranchised from voting in elections are people with felony convictions, but with the 2020 elections coming up in just a few weeks, the rules may be changing. Our criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh are breaking down whether you can vote if you have a felony conviction and how to do so.
Can Felons Vote in NC?
In multiple states, having a felony conviction on your record prevents you from voting, but North Carolina’s laws are not nearly as strict. While people serving their sentence for a felony conviction can not vote, once the sentence is complete, they can have their rights restored. It’s important to note that this does include probation and parole. If you are actively on probation or out on parole, you are not legally eligible to vote.
Court Fees and Fines
Until September 2020, state law prevented former felons from registering to vote if there are any fines or fees related to their case. Civil rights advocates argue that requiring payment of fees before having voting rights restored is a form of poll tax, which has been deemed unconstitutional, and a panel of three judges ruled two to one in their favor. This means that as of September 28th, 2020, people who still owe fines or court costs but have completed all other aspects of their conviction are eligible to vote. By overturning this law, over 60,000 people are now eligible to vote.
Voting Without Completing Your Sentence
If you are still under court supervision and you attempt to register or vote, this is a Class I felony which is punishable by up to two years in prison. Additionally, this could constitute a violation of your probation or parole. If you’re unsure if you’re eligible to vote, before you do, consult with an attorney. This will help prevent serious legal problems and a possible added felony conviction.
Renewing Your North Carolina Voting Rights
If you were convicted of a felony, once your sentence is fully complete, you must register to vote in the county where you currently reside. Before registering, we recommend that you ask your probation or parole officer for a Certificate of Restoration of Forfeited Rights of Citizenship. This document is not required for registration, but it is helpful if there are any questions about your right to vote. This Certificate may also make it easier to find a job.
Registering to vote and voting:
- If you have a North Carolina driver’s license or DMV-issued ID card, you can register to vote online at the NCDOT website;
- If you don’t have a license or ID card, you can print out an registration application and mail it into the State Board of Elections or drop it off in-person to either the NC State Board of Elections or your County Board of Elections Office (addresses are included on the form when you print out all pages).
- Make sure you use your physical street address on your form. It will not be processed with a P.O. Box
- The county board of elections must receive your form at least 25 days before the election. For the 2020 election, this means you should mail it by at least October 6th to ensure it arrives on time or drop it off in person on October 8th.
- You will receive a card at the address on the form with your precinct and polling place.
Contact Our Defense Lawyers in Raleigh About Your Rights After a Felony
If you have a felony conviction and would like to know more about how that affects your future, or if you would like to take steps toward expunging your record, we can help. Call us now at (919) 845-6688, or fill out the form to the right, to schedule a free consultation.