North Carolina prosecutors double charge Black woman for voting mistake
The district attorney of Hoke County has been accused of using a 19th century Jim Crow-era law to prosecute the mother.
A North Carolina mother is facing 19 months in prison for voting in the 2016 election in Hoke County while on probation for a felony assault charge.
Lanisha Bratcher tells The Guardian she had no idea she was ineligible to vote due to her criminal record, now she faces two felony charges.
The district attorney of Hoke County has been accused of using a 19th century Jim Crow-era law to prosecute Bratcher. She was initially charged with a single felony for illegal voting but prosecutors recently doubled the charges. She now faces a maximum of 19 months in prison for each count.
“I had no intention to trick anybody or be malicious or any kind of way,” she said in an article with The Guardian. “If you expect us to know that we should know we should not do something, then we should not be on the list or even allowed to do it.”
Americans convicted of a felony are ineligible to vote in 48 of the 50 states, but as noted by bust.com, each state’s policies for ex-cons various. North Carolina shows no love to ex-felons when it comes to voting. They are ineligible to vote while on probation.
The decision to prosecute Brathcer came after state officials acknowledged flaws in the system that informs convicted felons of their voting rights.
Bratcher, who is expecting her third child in December, was convicted of assault in 2013 and was on probation at the time she voted. Her case has been pending since late last year, with prosecutors initially telling her attorney that they planned to dismiss the original charge. But in June they served up two new grand jury indictments.
North Carolina law only allows felons to vote after completion of their sentence—including probation or parole, the report states.
“It feels like in some ways she’s being punished or targeted for fighting back,” said John Carella, Bratcher’s lawyer. “She’s certainly upset this is still going on. She is trying to move on with her life.”
The Guardian article notes that North Caroline’s voting statute was designed after the Civil War to curb the growing Black political power in the state, said Gary Freeze, a history and American studies professor at Catawba College in North Carolina.
“White supremacists did not want [another] reform effort – hence the severe penalty for those who could be proven to be voting with a criminal background,” he wrote in an email.
Bratcher’s attorney noted that the motive of the statute is also clearly outlined in a North Carolina Democratic handbook in 1898, which states: “the special mission of the Democratic Party [is] to rescue the white people of the east from the curse of negro domination.”
In 1903 by the state’s Governor, Charles Aycock, echoed this racist sentiment, stating that the “negro problem” could best be solved through disenfranchisement.
“In response to being made aware of the explicitly white supremacist history of the law and the unconstitutional way in which it was applied, the DA decided, rather than to dismiss or back off those charges, to essentially double down with more felonies and try to prevent that history and that unconstitutional challenge from being aired in court,” Carella said.
“The prosecutions serve the same purpose as the original law – to intimidate black voters in North Carolina,” he added.
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