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Bill tightening North Carolina sheriff candidate rejection gets final approval

The North Carolina legislature has agreed that people convicted of a felony can’t run for sheriff even if that crime has been formally removed from their criminal records.

The House voted 71-39 on Wednesday to accept Senate changes to a measure that clarifies how to implement a 2010 addition to North Carolina’s constitution barring convicted felons from running for sheriff.

Criminal offenders have been able to get some felonies removed from their records for a decade.

The bill heading now to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk says a sheriff’s candidate must turn in a form to election officials that confirms the person has no felonies on their current or expunged records.

The bill surfaced previously after local officials agreed in 2018 that former Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege could run for his old job again. Hege had pleaded guilty to felony obstruction charges in 2004, but got them removed from his record. Hege lost in the primary.

Democratic Rep. Joe John of Wake County urged colleagues to instead send the measure to a negotiating committee with the Senate. John said it was important that some people who get in legal trouble at an early age and turn their lives around get a second chance to serve.

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