CSI v. Moore


North Carolina


North Carolina State Superior Court

Citation and Year

871 S.E.2d 510 (N.C. 2022)

Constitutional Provision or State Statute

NC Constitution article I, § 10 (“Free Elections Clause”); NC Constitution article I, § 19 (“Equal Protection Clause”)

Nature of Case

In 2021, a lawsuit filed on behalf of various voting rights groups and individuals with felony convictions challenged North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement law, which suspends voting rights for people with felony convictions through their entire sentence. The lawsuit claimed that denying voting rights to people who are on supervised release or parole violates the state constitution.


North Carolina’s denial of voting rights to people on felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision violates the North Carolina Constitution’s Equal Protection and Free Elections Clauses. (Note: this order was later reversed 5-2 by the North Carolina Supreme Court on April 23, 2023.)


Citing the law’s racist origins and racial disparities in its application today, the court said it failed both strict and rational scrutiny, and issued an order restoring voting rights for more than 56,000 people. The court’s opinion both traced the racist origins of felony disenfranchisement (“The goal of the felony disenfranchisement regime established in 1876 and 1877 . . . was to discriminate against and disenfranchise African American people”) and explained that later amendments did not erase the law’s racist designs (“Even in the 1970s, people in North Carolina understood that maintaining felony disenfranchisement is one way of … keeping African-American people from voting.”).

The court also reaffirmed the especially robust protections provided by North Carolina’s constitution, finding violations of the state’s Free Elections and Equal Protection Clauses. “It is well-established,” the court said, “that North Carolina’s Equal Protection Clause provides greater protection for voting rights than federal equal protection provisions.”

According to the court, the state constitution offers heightened protection of due process rights against unjust and arbitrary government action, applied through the doctrine of “fundamental fairness” in article I, paragraph 1. The doctrine serves as “an augmentation of existing constitutional protections or as an independent source of protection against state action.”