FELON VOTING CASE FACES
GOP NC SUPREME COURT
By Cash Michaels
Last month, former felons were allowed to vote in the November 2022 elections by the then Democrat-led NC Supreme Court, until the full case of felon voting could be argued before the High Court.
Well, that time has come.
The new 5-2 Republican-led state Supreme Court has scheduled February 2, 2023 for arguments in the Community Success Initiative v. Moore felon voting case to be heard.
The concern from those in the ex-felon community is that Republicans have already expressed their opposition to allowing those with felony records who are on probation, parole or post- release supervision to cast ballots in elections, positing that it is a violation of state law.
A 1973 law, to be exact, originally passed by a Democrat-majority NC General Assembly that mandated that all felony offenders must finish all requirements of their former imprisonment before earning the right to retain full citizenship rights, including voting.
Democrats today argue that that 1973 law was based on racially discriminatory laws that prevented former slaves from voting over a hundred years earlier. Thus, because racial discrimination against blacks is illegal today, then any law based accordingly must also be unconstitutional.
But Republicans countered that the rules mandating that former felons complete all requirements owed the state actually predate Blacks getting the right to vote, so thus have nothing to do with racial discrimination. The GOP maintains that the 1973 law is still validate and should be upheld.
“The North Carolina Constitution provides that ‘…no person adjudged guilty of a felony … shall be permitted to vote unless that person shall be first restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law,’” Republican legislative leaders maintained in their previous court arguments.
“Accepting Plaintiffs’….arguments …would require this Court to find that felons have a fundamental right to vote, that elections without them are not ‘free,’ and that insisting felons pay their debt to society before rejoining the electorate is the equivalent of a poll-tax or property qualification. No such findings are possible because the North Carolina Constitution itself disenfranchises felons, subject to any re-enfranchisement law the General Assembly may in its discretion enact,” Republican leaders say.
During the course of their majority term, NC Supreme Court Democratic justices sent signals that they believed that the 1973 law should be trashed, and the over 56,000 former felons across North Carolina deserved to have all of their citizenship rights returned to them immediately after completing their terms of punishment.
The 4-3 Democrat-led High Court was believed to be preparing the felon voting case by this month, assuming that it might retain its majority during the November 2022 midterm elections. In October, it rejected a fast track request from plaintiffs however.
But during the elections, Democrats lost two seats on the state Supreme Court, giving Republicans a 5-2 advantage starting January 31st.
That meant Democrats only had time to fast-track at least two other cases - voter I.D. and restricting.
That left the felon voting case to be scheduled for the new term of the new Republican-led state Supreme Court.
Given what Republican legislative leaders have said about the case already accounts for why most observers believe that the 1973 law should prevail, and former felons be denied their voting rights until after they’ve completed all of their post-release requirements.
The felon voting case is among the first to be argued before the new state Supreme Court, starting February 2nd.
IN NORTH CAROLINA INCREASE
By Cash Michaels
More schools across North Carolina are racially segregating, or becoming “racially isolated.
According to a new report titled “Still Stymied: Why Integration Has Not Transformed North Carolina’s Schools” by Kris Nordstrom, Senior Policy Analyst with the Education and Law Project of the NC Justice Center, there has been very little progress since it’s first report, “Stymied by Segregation (March 2018).
That 2018 report had four important findings -
1 - The number of racially and economically isolated schools has increased
2 - Large school districts could be doing much more to integrate their schools
3 - School districts still use boundaries to maintain segregated school systems
4 - Charter schools tend to exacerbate segregation
The new 2022 report, now with five years of additional data, shows that “…there has been little progress in integrating North Carolina schools…” since 2018.. This is troubling in the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd, the January 6th white supremacist uprising at the U.S. Capital, and the targeting of socially-conscious history studies, otherwise known to right-wing dissenters as “Critical Race Theory,” in public schools.
The report states, “In our increasingly multiracial society, thriving adults must be able to communicate and work collaboratively with people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Integrated schools provide students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds the opportunity for meaningful contact and interactions that foster cross-cultural understanding an reduce bias and prejudice. Integrated schools can be a powerful counteractive to divisive times, promoting civic participation nd increasing the likelihood of students living in integrated neighborhoods as adults.”
According to the report, “…a school is considered racially or economically isolated if more than 75 percent of its students are students of color or are considered academically disadvantaged. It is important to identify isolated schools because such schools often require additional resources for their students to overcome outside-of-school barriers to academic success, yet often lack the political pull to secure an adequate or equitable share of resources.”
In the 2021-22 school year in North Carolina, 676, or 27 percent of all schools throughout the state, were considered racially - isolated.
Again, according to the report, “…the rise in racially-isolated schools in the traditional public school sector appears to be driven mainly by statewide demographic trends. Students of color now comprise the majority of students in traditional public schools. Students of color comprised 49 percent of traditional school students in 2017, rising to 55 percent in 2022. Over the past five years, the student of color share rose 14 percent, while the racially-isolated school share rose 15 percent.
The report adds that several counties have school districts that have varying degrees of racial dissimilarity, meaning that some have improved their index of dissimilarity while others have not.
Among those school districts that have not are:
Mecklenburg at 0.538
Guilford at 0.455
Forsyth at 0.417
Alamance-Burlington at 0.409
Halifax at 0.397
“It remains true that North Carolina’s largest districts tend to have a more unequal distribution of students across schools, as districts with fewer schools have fewer opportunities to racially or economically isolate students,” the report adds.