Republican leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly are asking the state's full Court of Appeals to temporarily block a ruling allowing certain felony offenders to vote while they appeal the case.
The legal battle goes back to August 2021, when a judicial panel struck down a 1973 North Carolina law that bars felony offenders from voting while serving active sentences — including if they are on probation or parole.
The judges found the law disproportionately affected Black residents and originated from an era of white supremacy in the 19th century, The Associated Press reported.
The ruling opens the door for people convicted of felonies to register and vote once they are out of prison, or if they never received a prison sentence. That could affect roughly 56,000 people, according to court testimony.
After the ruling was filed, Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger filed an appeal and asked for the ruling to be placed on hold while their appeal is heard.
In a split 2 -1 decision last week, a three-judge panel granted a partial win to Berger and Moore. The panel said the ruling could be kept on hold through the May and July primaries, but would be allowed to take effect for the November election.
The three-judge panel was made up of two Democratic judges, John Arrowood and Allegra Collins, and one Republican, Jefferson Griffin.
Griffin dissented in the case, arguing there was a "high risk of irreparable harm" if the ruling was allowed to take effect before the courts ruled on the appeal.
"If convicted felons are permitted to vote in the November election and petitioners subsequently prevail on the merits of their appeal, untold thousands of lawful votes cast by North Carolina citizens likely will be diluted by votes cast by convicted felons in violation of our state constitution," Griffin wrote.
Moore and Berger are now appealing to North Carolina's full 15-member Court of Appeals — made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats — again asking for the ruling to be placed on hold until a court rules on their appeal.
Plaintiffs in the case include the North Carolina NAACP, Justice Served NC, Community Success Initiative, and Wash Away Unemployment. Their attorneys say restoring voting rights for people convicted of felonies who are out of prison would represent the largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the 1960s.