Up & Coming Weekly

September 15, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 11 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM SEPTEMBER 16-22, 2020 UCW 11 Split court ruling permits some felons to vote by RICK HENDERSON Some N.C. felons who have finished their ac- tive prison time will be able to cast ballots in the 2020 election, based on a 2-1 ruling from a state Superior Court panel. e court's order applies to any felon who is out of prison but still must pay fees or fines be- fore his criminal sentence is considered complete. e ruling in Community Success Initiative v. Moore represents a partial victory for the "Un- lock Our Vote Campaign," led by an advocacy group called Forward Justice. e group's lawsuit filed in November 2019 aimed to restore vot- ing rights for almost 60,000 convicted felons not serving active prison time. Supporters argued that state laws regarding restoration of voting rights for felons violate the N.C. Constitution. e Sept. 4 ruling in the case offered plaintiffs mixed news. e judges refused to strike down voting restrictions for all felons who have com- pleted active prison sentences. But two members of the panel — Judges Lisa Bell and Keith Greg- ory — agreed that money-related requirements for post-release felons create unconstitutional restrictions of voting rights. "As Defendants correctly argue, the express words of [the challenged state statute] do not in and of themselves create different classifica- tions of persons convicted of felonies — all such persons remain disenfranchised until they have been 'unconditionally discharged,'" the judges wrote. "However, by requiring an unconditional discharge that includes payments of all monetary obligations imposed by the court, [the statute] creates a wealth classification that punishes fel- ons who are genuinely unable to comply with the financial terms of their judgment more harshly than those who are able to comply." Bell and Gregory agreed to grant a preliminary injunction allowing those felons to cast ballots this year. e judges limited their injunction to felons now prevented from voting "solely as a result of them being subject to an assessment of fees, fines, or other debts arising from a felony conviction." Felons on probation or parole with no out- standing fees or fines would not be affected. e third judge in the case — John Dunlow — agreed with his colleagues only in the parts of their ruling that rejected plaintiffs' arguments. Dunlow would have thrown out the entire lawsuit and ruled in favor of the defendants. "e Plaintiffs, throughout their complaint, briefs, filings, and arguments, complain of North Carolina's 'disenfranchisement scheme,' 'disen- franchisement statute,' and 'disenfranchisement of citizens,'" Dunlow wrote. "e disenfranchise- ment of which Plaintiffs complain is in no way at- tributable to [the challenged statute]. No reason- able reading of the plain language of [the statute] could be interpreted to disenfranchise any person. Rather, the sole purpose of [the statute] is to provide a mechanism whereby individuals who have been convicted of a felony offense may be re-enfranchised." e N.C. Republican Party responded to the ruling. "It is outrageous for these judges to change the rules for an election when absentee ballots have already started going out and voting has begun," N.C. GOP Chairman Michael What- ley said in an emailed statement. "is is yet another example of why we need to elect Conser- vative Judges who will apply the law rather ran re-write the laws they don't like." Kindred Ministries supports Passport Series at CFRT a STAFF REPORT Kindred Ministries announces a part- nership with Cape Fear Regional eatre and its Passport Series, with the help of a grant of $2550 from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. "Kindred Ministries is so grateful to have received this grant from the Arts Council," said Dr. Scott Cameron, founder of Kindred Ministries. "It will enable our community of adults with and without intellectual disabilities to access an incredible arts program at CFRT!" Kindred Ministries exists to create opportunities for adults of all abilities to grow in friendship, primarily through the avenue of a daytime program. A valuable component of that daytime program is the Passports Series with CFRT. roughout the course of the Series, participants gather weekly to create, write and eventually perform an original story. e community is then invited to the perfor- mance, encountering a stage where people typi- cally pushed to the margins are at the center. Much of what Kindred does is dependent upon the gracious support of grants and other outside funding sources. "e Arts Council is pleased to partner with Kindred Ministries in support of the partner- ship with CFRT for the Passport Series," said Bob Pinson, interim president and CEO of the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. "Project Support Grants for 2020-21 will help fund 20 projects facilitated by 15 nonprofit orga- nizations. ese projects help strengthen our communi- ties through festivals and concerts, youth educa- tion programs, art exhibitions and workshops, and more." Project Support Grants increase opportunities for access to arts, science, cultural and historical programming in Cumberland County. e grants are awarded to nonprofit agencies in Cumberland County that demonstrate financial and administrative stability. Kindred Ministries exists to create a com- munity where our friends with disabilities are at the center and, as a result, everyone thrives. It is built on the foundation of mutuality: that we can help each other, that we can learn from each other, and that when you really get to know each other, you might just encounter a kindred spirit. e Arts Council of Fayetteville/ Cumberland County serves more than 330,000 residents of Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Since 1973, the Arts Council has ensured growth in our children's education, our community's cultural identity and our economic progress. e Arts Council's grants, programs and ser- vices are funded in part by contributions from businesses and individuals and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the North Carolina Arts Council, with fund- ing from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources. NEWS RICK HENDERSON, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. e sole purpose of [the statute] is to provide a mecha- nism whereby individuals who have been convicted of a felony offense may be re-enfranchised.

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