Conviction of a felony bars a person from exercising various “citizenship” rights, such as the right to vote, hold public office, and sit on a jury.[1] Generally, these citizenship rights are automatically restored in North Carolina when a person completes his or her criminal sentence (see Table 25). G.S. 13-1(1).[2]

The General Assembly enacted automatic restoration of citizenship rights in 1973, repealing previous requirements for restoration such as a waiting period after the person’s sentence ended and an application process to reinstate rights. See State v. Currie, 284 N.C. 562 (1974) (reviewing legislative changes). In 2013, a bill was introduced in the General Assembly to reimpose such requirements, delaying restoration for five years after completion of a felony sentence and requiring the person to obtain the unanimous approval of the board of elections of the county of that person’s residence. The bill did not make it out of committee. S.B. 721, sec. 2.1 (2013).

Recent litigation has challenged the constitutionality of North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement laws. In 2020, a three-judge panel of superior court judges issued a preliminary injunction and granted partial summary judgment finding that the disenfranchisement of people convicted of a felony violated equal protection in certain respects. The two-to-one opinions enjoined the State from preventing a person convicted of a felony from voting if the only remaining barrier to restoration, other than regular conditions of probation, is the payment of a monetary amount. See Community Success Initiative v. Moore, No. 19 CVS 15941 (N.C. Super. Ct., Sept. 4, 2020). On August 27, 2021, the panel majority expanded its order to restore voting rights to individuals who were on parole, probation, or supervised release for a felony conviction—that is, not incarcerated. On March 20, 2022, following a trial, the panel majority entered a final judgment sustaining its order. In a 5-2 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and upheld North Carolina’s disenfranchisement laws. 384 N.C. 194 (2023).

If a person has been convicted in North Carolina of a felony, the agency, department, or court that has jurisdiction over the person must issue a certificate or order evidencing the restoration of the person’s citizenship rights once the person has completed his or her sentence. See G.S. 13-2(a). The court issues the certificate or order if a person received a sentence of unsupervised probation or a fine only because there is no supervising or custodial agency. For a further discussion of these notices, see Jamie Markham, North Carolina’s Voting Restrictions for Felons, N.C. Crim. L., UNC Sch. of Gov’t Blog (Oct. 6, 2016).

If a person has been convicted of a felony in another state or in federal court and has completed his or her sentence, the person may apply to the clerk of court in the North Carolina county where the person resides for a certificate evidencing the restoration of his or her citizenship rights; the clerk must issue the certificate if the person has completed his or her sentence. See G.S. 13-2(b). An unconditional pardon or satisfaction of all conditions of a conditional pardon also restores a person’s citizenship rights (G.S. 13-2), but neither type of pardon is necessary to restoration of citizenship rights in North Carolina because restoration is automatic on a person’s completion of his or her sentence.

Completion of a felony sentence and restoration of citizenship rights does not automatically restore other rights lost or collateral consequences imposed as a result of a criminal conviction, such as the loss of firearm rights (discussed later in this guide).


Table 25. Restoration of Citizenship Rights

Matters Subject to Restoration of Citizenship Rights

Principal Restrictions on Restoration of Citizenship Rights

Applicable Statutes and Forms

  • All felony convictions
  • Completion of criminal sentence, including any period of incarceration, probation, or post-release supervision following incarceration


  • G.S. 13-1
  • AOC-CR-926 (Jan. 2022) (order of restoration for unsupervised probationers or fine-only sentences); AOC-CR-919 (Jan. 2022) (certificate of restoration for person with out-of-state or federal conviction)



[1] See N.C. Const. art. VI, sec. 2(3) (disqualification to vote); N.C. Const. art. VI, sec. 8 (disqualification to hold public office); G.S. 9-3 (disqualification from jury service); G.S. 28A-4-2(3) (disqualification as administrator of estate).

[2] In 2010, the North Carolina Constitution was amended to bar a person from holding the office of sheriff if convicted of a felony. The right to hold that office is not restored on completion of the person’s sentence. N.C. Const. art. VII, sec. 2. Effective for elections and appointments of sheriffs on or after October 1, 2021, G.S. 162-2 provides that a person who has been convicted of a felony is ineligible to be sheriff, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged.