People convicted of felonies who have paid their debts to society in North Carolina would no longer automatically get back the right to vote under the Senate’s version of the voter ID bill. The bill would require people convicted of felony crimes to wait five years upon completing their sentence, probation or parole before they could attempt to re-register to vote. First, though, they would have to get affidavits from two registered voters attesting to their “upstanding moral character” and get the unanimous approval of their local board of elections.
The bill’s primary sponsor, E.S. “Buck” Newton of Wilson, said he considers the measure a compromise. “The long and short of it is the vast majority of people I have spoken to regarding election laws think convicted felons should not be able to vote at all,” said Newton, a Republican who represents Wilson, Nash and Johnston counties. “I think a person can make a mistake, get their lives together and show themselves to be upstanding citizens. A five-year time frame is a reasonable period to show that.”
Critics say the bill is racially biased and is among a series of initiatives designed to suppress the black vote since President Barack Obama was re-elected.
Of the more than 40,000 people in North Carolina’s prisons in 2011 – 93 percent of whom were men – 57 percent were black, even though African-Americans make up only 22 percent of the state’s population.