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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, January 07, 2010

9th Circuit Says Felons Have Voting Rights

From Ballot Access News:

The federal Voting Rights Act says, “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

For decades, ex-felons and felons have been filing constitutional lawsuits, alleging that state laws that deprive felons or ex-felons of the right to vote are in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In order for this claim to succeed, it is necessary that these plaintiffs establish that the criminal justice system disproportionately prosecutes and sentences racial minorities. Much statistical evidence does support that conclusion. Notwithstanding that statistical evidence, courts have not been willing to agree that the Voting Rights Act outlaws state laws that disenfranchise ex-felons or felons.

However, on January 5, the 9th circuit ruled in a Washington state case that the Voting Rights Act does apply. The decision, Farrakhan v. Gregoire, is here. The case was first filed in 1996. The 9th circuit decision is 2-1. The dissenter wanted the case sent back to the U.S. District Court again for still more evidence-gathering. But the majority notes that in Washington state, almost 25% of the black male adult citizens are or have been felons.

Although the 1st, 2nd, and 11th circuits have ruled that the Voting Rights Act does not relate to state laws on felon or ex-felon disenfranchisement, in all three of those other circuits, the decisions were not unanimous. One of the 2nd circuit judges who wrote that the Voting Rights Act does pertain to this issue was Sonia Sotomayor, now on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Just for curiosity's sake: How many convicts really want to vote, anyway?
I mean, if they had been filled with any civic interest in the first place, quite possibly they wouldn't be in prison now.
Of course, there are lots of people who LOVE politics who ought to be in prison, but they are mostly people in Congress and the various state legislatures and other government offices.
Ex-cons in many or even most cases should be allowed to vote, but while they're in prison, probably not.

Wed Jan 13, 12:38:00 PM CST  

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