A dozen people in North Carolina were arrested, jailed and later charged with a felony for voting illegally in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Keith Sellars was among twelve people from Alamance County who voted during the presidential election while being on either parole or probation. His case is now being prosecuted along with the other 11 voters.
In Dec. 2017, the 44-year-old was driving back home with his family after having dinner at a Mexican restaurant when police stopped him after he broke a red light. They did a background check and discovered there was a warrant issued in his name.
They arrested Sellars and took him with them as his daughter wept in the car. He was later charged with illegal voting.
North Carolina, along with many other states, disqualifies a person from voting if they are on parole or probation for felony convictions. However, they can automatically vote once they finish steps of their sentence.
Sellars family paid his $2,500 bond which got him out of jail after spending a night there.
“I didn’t know. I thought I was practicing my right,” he said.
North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Idaho and other states filed tough charges on a tiny number of people who were caught voting illegally, despite the fact election experts and public officials across the United States rejected voter fraud claim.
The case of Alamance County was alarming because the fact that all of the 12 voters, who voted illegally, were charged together. Moreover, nine of the 12 people are African-Americans.
Thirty-two-year-old Whitney Brown’s case was also similar. In 2014 she was charged of writing bad checks, however, she never served prison time for it and was released on parole.
Just like Sellars, she was also not told that she had temporarily lost her right of voting.
“My heart dropped,” she said while recounting the moment she received a letter from the state election officials that said she had voted illegally.
Taranta Holman, 28, also faced the situation.
He was on probation and said he didn’t want to vote for either Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump. However, he eventually did, because of the continuous insistence of his mother.
He later found out there was an arrest warrant in his name. Holman said he will fight the charges because he can’t afford to pay the amount that comes with pleading to lesser misdemeanors. However, he said he will never vote again.
All of the defendants said they weren’t aware of the voter law which is why they unwittingly voted and said if they had known of the eligibility law, they wouldn’t have done so.
Activists in the state are now campaigning the charges, against the people who unknowingly made a mistake, be dropped.
“It smacks of Jim Crow. I don’t think he [district attorney] targeted black people. But if you cast that net, you’re going to catch more African-Americans,” said Barrett Brown, the head of the Alamance County.
In the state, African-Americans are likely to be disqualified from voting because of felony convictions. Statistics prove that the large number of the black population in North Carolina is incarcerated and the number is at least four times higher than that of white people.
Civil-activists now fear the felony convictions of the dozen people will deter African-Americans from voting as they will have a fear of being arrested.
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