Federal Court Rules That Washington Felons Are Entitled To Vote

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On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Washington State’s law banning voting by incarcerated felons, finding the state’s criminal justice system ‘infected’ with racial discrimination.

A 3-judge panel found that Washington’s law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  This is the first time that a federal appeals court has equated systemic discrimination with other prohibited activities under the VRA such as poll taxes.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna said he will appeal — either back to a larger 9th Circuit panel, or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The two-judge majority based its decision on volumes of social science research presented by plaintiffs, which the Court stated, “speak to a durable, sustained indifference in treatment faced by minorities in Washington’s criminal justice system — systemic disparities which cannot be explained by ‘factors independent of race.’ ”

You can link to an article from the Seattle Times discussing the case here.

A PDF copy of the Court’s decision is also in the Box.

We will be following this case with great interest, particularly if the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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