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Voting rights for felons? Ninth Circuit decision will be appealed to Supreme Court

Voting rights for felons? Ninth Circuit decision will be appealed to Supreme Court

(AGO, US Supreme Court) Permanent link

Yesterday, Attorney General Rob McKenna told reporters the state plans to appeal Tuesday's Ninth Circuit felon voting decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Secretary of State Sam Reed joined the conference by phone to offer his support. The announcement received coverage from several major papers including the Tri-City Herald:

Tuesday's 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2000 ruling of a district judge in Spokane. The appeals court says Washington state's felon disenfranchisement law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

KPLU reported:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, because the state's criminal justice system is "infected" with racial discrimination, not allowing incarcerated felons to vote violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

McKenna says that's a misreading of the voting rights act. "The Voting Rights Act doesn't say you look at one subpopulation and analyze just that one part, such as the criminal justice system," he said.

McKenna contends the Voting Rights Act requires you to look at the broader community to see whether it has an ability to vote and participate in the political process. He says people who break the law and end up in prison deserve to lose rights such as voting.

For a full description of the story, see our press release.

Helen Gaia Thomas

Posted by Public Affairs Unit at 01/11/2010 01:50:24 PM | 

I applaud the 9th-Circuit court decision! People do not stop being US citizens, stop paying taxes, or stop being affected by US laws once they go to prison. People under sentence of imprisonment are the most excluded, most neglected, and most discriminated-against people in America. Theirs are the voices that most need to be heard through the US electoral system. If we take away felons' right to vote, we completely shut them out of the fabric of the American community. We tell them that they have no stake in America's future, that the US government and the public it represents have no responsibilities toward them. Is it any wonder, then, that they, conversely, feel they have no responsibility toward us? What incentive is there for a disenfranchised felon to rebuild his life, restore his family ties, pay his debt to society, and resume his civic duties toward his community? The right to vote is the fundamental, primary right of US citizens; indeed, having a say in a representative government is a basic human right that everyone should enjoy worldwide. Our forefathers -- many of them convicted felons themselves -- came to America to start new lives and make a fresh start with a clean slate. Should we deny that second chance to the felons of today?
Posted by: Laura Tabernacle ( Email ) at 1/8/2010 8:52 PM

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in the opinion of many, lacks wisdom and common sense. Don't these people realize what they are doing to our country?
Posted by: Ron Renzoni ( Email ) at 1/12/2010 2:28 PM

Voting raises the awareness of current issues while instilling a sense of civic responsibility. It incourages discussion and decision making. I’ve always questioned the policy of denying incarcerated citizens their right to vote. Repaying a debt to society should be viewed as punitive and not a license to strip away one's constitutional rights.
Posted by: D.Kip Finn ( Email ) at 2/4/2010 6:40 PM

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