Attorney General Bonta Joins Multistate Coalition in Support of Voting Rights for Previously Incarcerated Individuals

Thursday, August 18, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in an amicus brief in Community Success Initiative v. Moore urging the North Carolina Supreme Court to affirm a trial court decision to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated individuals in North Carolina. The case centers around a challenge to a North Carolina statute that was found to unlawfully infringe on the voting rights of people previously convicted of a felony who are in the process of completing the terms of their probation, parole, post release supervision, or legal financial obligations. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition highlights the importance of civic engagement for strengthening previously incarcerated individuals’ ties to their communities, reducing the likelihood of recidivism, and supporting increased public safety. 

“Democracy requires full-throated participation to work,” said Attorney General Bonta. “For far too long, the right to vote has been stripped away from people of color through the criminal legal system. Laws — like North Carolina’s — that inequitably restrict access to the ballot box only serve to weaken our ability to respond appropriately to the needs of all of our communities. It’s time to correct these disenfranchisement laws that don’t support public safety and contradict our democratic values. I urge the North Carolina Supreme Court to affirm the trial court’s decision to restore access to the right to vote for formerly incarcerated North Carolinians.”

Disenfranchisement of previously incarcerated Americans in the United States is the product of a patchwork of state laws, which vary widely. In 2020 alone, an estimated 5.2 million people across the United States were barred from voting in the general election and locked out of the democratic process because of state laws that disenfranchise individuals who were convicted of felony offenses. Laws — like North Carolina’s — that target those on parole, probation, or paying court-imposed fees can have disproportionate harms on people of color, which can broadly undermine our democratic system. The concern is not simply that some people lose their political voices — a negative outcome in its own right, but also that their communities as a whole face diminished voting power and lose out on opportunities to influence myriad issues that affect their daily lives. In recent years, however, a trend has emerged: Based on these types of significant concerns, states have begun moving away from broadly restricting the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals. For instance, numerous states — including California — automatically restore voting rights to any person convicted of a felony upon release from incarceration. Efforts to expand the right to vote embrace the notion that civic engagement benefits both the individuals and the communities they rejoin.

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts:

  • North Carolina’s disenfranchisement statute is out of step with efforts to expand voting rights;
  • Evidence shows that allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to vote fosters civic participation and improves public safety;
  • North Carolina’s statute does not promote traditional criminal justice goals and, in contrast, studies suggest that disenfranchisement may actually be correlated with increased recidivism; and
  • Systems that automatically restore an individual’s right to vote upon release are generally less costly and confusing than systems like North Carolina’s.

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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