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A judge in North Carolina has ruled that a law criminalizing voting for individuals with felony convictions is unconstitutional. 

US District Judge Loretta Biggs determined on Monday that the 1877 statute not only carried a racially discriminatory intent at its inception but continues to adversely affect Black voters disproportionately. In her ruling, Judge Biggs said the statute “has not been cleansed of its discriminatory taint.”

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The legislation made it a Class I felony for anyone in the state to vote without having their rights formally reinstated. Despite amendments, Judge Biggs criticized the law’s vague enforcement criteria, which could allow for arbitrary application by prosecutors. She emphasized inconsistencies in interpretations by District Attorneys, some of whom did not require proof of intent to violate the law, leading to a “standardless sweep” that could be manipulated based on individual prosecutorial preferences.

The case, initiated by the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute Inc. and Action NC, argued that the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause by targeting a demographic that includes a disproportionate number of Black Americans. Data indicates that nearly 53% of North Carolina’s prison population is Black, significantly higher than their 21.5% representation in the state’s adult population.


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