Up & Coming Weekly

February 21, 2023

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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4 UCW FEBRUARY 22 - 28, 2023 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM STAFF PUBLISHER Bill Bowman Bill@upandcomingweekly.com OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Paulette Naylor accounting@upandcomingweekly.com MANAGING EDITOR April Olsen editor@upandcomingweekly.com ASSISTANT EDITOR Hannah Lee assistanteditor@upandcomingweekly. com ART DIRECTOR Courtney Sapp-Scott art@upandcomingweekly.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Isaiah Jones graphics@upandcomingweekly.com STAFF WRITERS Alyson Hansen Ashley Shirley Kathleen Ramsey Chayenne Burns Katrina Wilson CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mitch Kokai, Rep. Richard Hudson, John Hood, Pitt Dickey, Jim Jones, Jami McLaughlin, Christopher Thrasher, Amanda Dekker, Rabbi Dov Goldberg MARKETING ASSOCIATE Linda McAlister linda@upandcomingweekly.com DISTRIBUTION MANAGER/SALES ADMINISTRATOR Paulette Naylor COVER Design and photo of Dwight Smith standing in front of "Revelations #1" by Isaiah Jones Up & Coming Weekly www.upandcomingweekly.com 208 Rowan St. P.O. Box 53461 Fayetteville, NC 28305 PHONE: 910-484-6200- FAX: 910-484-9218 Up & Coming Weekly is a "Quality of Life" publication with local features, news and information on what's happening in and around the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community. Published weekly on Wednesdays, Up & Coming Weekly welcomes manuscripts, photographs and artwork for publication consideration, but assumes no responsibility for them. We cannot accept responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts or material. Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to edit or reject copy submitted for publication. Up & Coming Weekly is free of charge and distributed at indoor and outdoor locations throughout Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Pope Army Airfield, Hope Mills and Spring Lake. Readers are limited to one copy per person. © 2020 by F&B Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of editorial or advertisements without permission is strictly prohibited. Various ads with art graphics designed with elements from: vecteezy.com and freepik.com. New N.C. Supreme Court Justices Trey Allen and Richard Dietz have eight years to prove their dedication to limited con- stitutional government. An early case involving felon voting rights suggests they have a good chance of passing the test. Allen and Dietz joined their five state Supreme Court colleagues on Feb. 2 for oral arguments in Community Success Initiative v. Moore. In that case, plaintiffs argue that all felons who have completed active prison time should be allowed to vote in N.C. elections. A decision in the case is weeks or even months away. But questions and com- ments from both Allen and Dietz suggest they are approaching the case from a proper constitutional perspective. Article VI, Section 2(3) of the N.C. Con- stitution deals with "disqualification of felon." It says no felon "shall be permit- ted to vote unless that person shall first be restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law." e General Assembly writes the laws. e current law for re-enfranchising felons dates back to 1973. It says felons regain voting rights once they complete all aspects of their sentences, both inside and outside prison. at 1973 law marked a liberalization of the re-enfranchisement process. Prior to its passage, N.C. felons had to jump through additional hoops to regain the right to vote. Yet many left-of-center activists op- pose the current rules. ey believe any felon who has completed active prison time should be able to vote. Rather than pursue that goal through the General Assembly, the body that has the power to write new laws, some activ- ists went to court. ey argued that the felon voting standards violated the state constitution. It's noteworthy that the Community Success Initiative case didn't challenge Article VI, Section 2(3). It would be hard to claim that a section of the state consti- tution violates the state constitution. Instead, opponents took on the 1973 law. ey called it racially discrimina- tory. Two members of a three-judge trial- court panel agreed. e panel struck down the law, then took the unusual step of declaring that all felons who had com- pleted active prison time would be able to vote in upcoming elections. e N.C. Court of Appeals delayed implementation of that change. But a split 2-1 appellate panel allowed felons outside prison walls to register and vote in last November's election. Advocates have said the ruling applied to roughly 56,000 people. e state Supreme Court must decide whether trial judges got the decision right. Felon voting advocates answer yes. Legislative leaders say no. During oral arguments, Dietz outlined a key problem with the felon voting activists' case. If the 1973 law violates the state constitution, that doesn't open the door to more felons voting. "Isn't the remedy under our constitu- tional doctrine that we would declare the act of the General Assembly unconsti- tutional? It's a nullity," Dietz said. "And the General Assembly must re-enact a constitutional version of the statute." Dietz later questioned the notion that judges could rewrite felon voting rules from the bench. "It seems that our con- stitutional doctrine is pretty clear that in North Carolina we don't try to get into the minds of legislators," he said. "We declare something unconstitu- tional and then tell that other branch of government, 'You need to try again. You enacted a law, and it was unconstitu- tional. Enact one that is not unconstitu- tional.'" A Washington, D.C.-based lawyer arguing for felon voting responded that such a ruling could "wreak havoc" on North Carolina's elections. It would eliminate voting for any felon who ever has had his rights restored. Yet that is the only way a court could address an unconstitutional law. Judges cannot invent a new law to replace the old one. Allen made that point when he fol- lowed Dietz's commentary. "Here's my basic concern with the remedy," Allen said. "e constitution in Article VI says felons shall not vote un- less their rights have been restored in the manner prescribed by law." "e default is no felon voting except in the manner prescribed by law," Allen said. "Where is the law that prescribes that felons can vote — or may vote — simply upon being released from incar- ceration?" "e trial court seems to have imposed a remedy that's beyond the authority of a court," Allen added. "e courts can't grant the restoration of voting rights to felons. e constitu- tion expressly provides that those rights can only be restored by law. e author- ity to adopt such a law rests with the General Assembly, not with any court." It's unclear whether a majority of the court will find fault with the 1973 law. If so, Allen and Dietz's comments suggest they will not be inclined to have the state Supreme Court rewrite the law on its own. at's a job for legislators. Voters elected Allen and Dietz last No- vember to eight-year terms on the state's highest court. ey will have plenty of opportunities in the years ahead to dem- onstrate their judicial philosophies. In this early case, they have signaled an adherence to reading what the N.C. Constitution says and following it where it leads. PUBLISHER'S PEN New justices signal devotion to North Carolina Constitution's actual words by MITCH KOKAI, Carolina Journal Richard Dietz Associate Justice Trey Allen Associate Justice MITCH KOKAI, Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200

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