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Voting rights restored to felons

North Carolina restores voting rights to 55,000 residents

POLK COUNTY—The state of North Carolina can no longer prevent people convicted of a state or federal felony and are who are still under supervision but are not in prison from voting. 

The largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971 occurred this week. 

The new law will affect more than 55,000 people throughout the state. 

Judge Lisa Bell to the parties of a lawsuit that she and Judge Keith Gregory decided to extend their preliminary injunction from last year to immediately apply to everyone on community supervision rather than just those serving sentences because of financial obligations. 

Another judge, John Dunlow, the remaining member of the 3-judge panel opposed the decision. 

A written order was expected by Friday but Bell said it could take longer. 

The decision overturns a decision from 1876 where people convicted of felonies could not vote. 

North Carolina is now one of 22 states in the nation to automatically restore voting rights to people when they are released from prison. The ruling also means that people convicted of felonies and sentenced to probation, but not prison time, will retain their right to vote. 

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has announced he will appeal the order.