A three-judge panel in North Carolina made a preliminary ruling that civil rights activists say could allow over 50,000 people convicted of felonies, but aren’t currently incarcerated, to register to vote.
The ruling came Monday (August 23) as a result of a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and formerly incarcerated people who challenged a state law that prohibits people convicted of felonies to register to vote until they’ve completed their prison sentence including probation and parole.
According to CNN, Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell told participants in a brief hearing that two of three judges on a panel would issue a preliminary injunction on the state law that denies people with felonies from registering to vote. The ruling was made verbally, however and no written order has been issued yet, the outlet reported. A court official handling the case confirmed the ruling to CNN, and said that it applies to people with federal and state convictions and takes effect immediately.
Following the ruling, the state Board of Elections announced county election boards around the state “must immediately begin to permit such individuals to vote.”
Voting rights advocates say a disproportionate number of the roughly 56,000 people impacted by the law are Black.
“History has been made in North Carolina,” Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC, said during a virtual news conference following the ruling. “A change has come!”
The ruling isn’t set in stone yet, though, since an appeal could still be made and the court has to issue a final say about a trial conducted last week regarding the constitutionality of the state’s law.