RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)–More than 56,000 people in the state of North Carolina have had their voting rights restored. It comes after a law prevented North Carolinians with certain prior felony convictions the right to do just that for several decades.
“This means I get to be part of a federal democracy… Prior to this order, I was just a tax payer,” said Daquan Peters of Wilmington. Peters, who is also a coordinator for Second Chance Alliance, said that he was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison.
Peters shared: “Yeah, was I wrong, did I break the law? Yeah, I did. But did I deserve 22 years for it? No! The more I began to educate myself on the war on drugs, I began to realize it was a war on us.”
Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice, said 42% of people impacted by the former law were African Americans.
Atkinson said that would change on Wednesday for thousands of people after a recent court decision.
Atkinson joined several other advocates and members of social justice groups during a campaign in Downtown Raleigh on Wednesday to help encourage thousands of eligible voters to register.
Organizers of the campaign said the decision marks the largest expansion of voting rights since the 1960’s Voting Rights Act.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II from Repairers of the Breach & the Poor People’s Campaign also joined several speakers on the stage during the Wednesday event.
“When a person had paid their debt to society, the state of North Carolina told them in essence to be a model citizen, get a job, pay taxes, but you can’t vote,” Barber II said. “Nowhere in the Constitution does it say you must pay forever.”
At one point, Peters hugged Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II on stage while discussing what the historic day meant to him.
“Now I can go and say yes– express my concerns about where the dollars of the taxes I pay go to, records for the board of education… now my voice can be heard about what goes on in school district where my grandchildren go to school at,” Peters said. “This means that my voice is seen and heard.”
Peters said that there have been voter problems in the past and believes there will still be challenges ahead.
At the end of the day, he said people want to be seen as people- not ex-felons or convicts. When asked what Peters would like to see happen next, he said, “True justice-simple as that.”