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Courts Give WA Felons Voting Rights

Courts Give WA Felons Voting Rights

(Stock Photo)

The Seattle Times via YellowBrix

January 06, 2010

SEATTLE, WA – A federal appeals court on Tuesday tossed out Washington’s law banning incarcerated felons from voting, finding the state’s criminal-justice system is “infected” with racial discrimination.

The surprising ruling, by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, said the law violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority voters.

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The decision is the first in the country’s federal appeals courts to equate a prohibition against voting by incarcerated felons with practices outlawed under the federal Voting Rights Act, such as poll taxes or literacy tests.

But Washington’s 37,000 felons in prison or on community supervision should not yet break out their voter pamphlets. 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 apparently was persuaded by the plaintiffs’ argument that reams of social-science data filed in the case showed minorities in Washington are stopped, arrested and convicted in such disproportionate rates that the ban on voting by incarcerated felons is inherently discriminatory.

The decision, written by Judge A. Wallace Tashima, said the studies "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.’ "

McKenna said the ruling, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would apply to all 48 states that ban voting by felons in prison or on supervision. But he disputed the research and the court’s legal reasoning.

“What the 9th Circuit did here is misapply the Voting Rights Act,” he said. “They just got it wrong.”

The case was first filed in Spokane in 1996 by Muhammad Shabazz Farrakhan, who was serving a three-year sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for a series of felony-theft convictions. Ultimately, five other inmates, all members of racial minority groups, joined as plaintiffs.

The case has twice bounced between district court and the appeals court.

It was built on research by University of Washington sociologists who found that blacks are 70 percent more likely — and Latinos and Native Americans 50 percent more likely — than whites to be searched in traffic stops.

The research also showed that blacks are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, despite the fact that the ratio of arrests for violent crime among blacks and whites is less than four-to-one. One result of that: 25 percent of black men in Washington are disenfranchised from voting.

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  • Animal007_max50

    bulldogdt20012001

    over 4 years ago

    206 Comments

    I'm with FSVCorp on this one. Im not liberal at all, but if you pay taxes you should be able to vote. That being said, being a freeloader and not paying taxes, you shouldnt be able to vote. If they are in prison, they are not paying taxes and shouldn't vote. If they are living off of welfare and not working, they shouldn't vote! And selling drugs is not a job!!! I say we don't worry about felonies and make them demonstrate that they actually contribute to society before they vote. Odds are with that system nothing will change anyhow!!!!!!!

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    fireprotom

    over 4 years ago

    1824 Comments

    Stupid! But it says a lot for the very liberal views from the Northwestern U.S.

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    Monicamom

    over 4 years ago

    10 Comments

    I find this totally stupid! First of all, voting is a privledge, not a right.. Secondly, if a criminal takes rights away from victims, then their rights should also be taken away. Being in jail is not like living in a frat house. It is not supposed to be like home. I am very disappointed in our government for making life on the inside more appealing than life out here!!!!!!!!!!

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    CITIZEN_2861127

    over 4 years ago

    6 Comments

    I guess that this was inevitable since the US has more incarcerated citizens than any other country.

    Before long the criminals in DC will run out of people to vote them into office... Looks like this should pay off for them eventually.

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    FSVCorp

    over 4 years ago

    8 Comments

    I'm a bit torn on this. Don't get me wrong, I'm no liberal, but if convicted felons still have to pay taxes, abide by the law, etc., why shouldn't they be allowed to vote? I'm just looking for a reason other than some simplistic "they gave up their right to vote when they committed a felony..."

  • Me_last_wk_max50

    delano388

    over 4 years ago

    4314 Comments

    This is disgraceful

  • Draped_badge_max50

    184retired

    over 4 years ago

    3806 Comments

    WTF thought felons couldn't vote period end of story...Of course they can run for election in DC and win...Something is terribly wrong with this country..Thank you Mass,,,,you put us on the road to recovery Tuesday night...This race card is total and complete BS,,,I know all us cops when taking our reports fabricate it when the people tell us it was a white male suspect we write in black for shi$$s and grins..They aren't in there because they are black..They are in there because they did the crime...Try getting a job for a change instead of pulling welfare and selling drugs..

  • Sg_max50

    elaken

    over 4 years ago

    424 Comments

    “best tool to re-integrate them into society.” BS. That's a laugh.

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    PDPATCHES

    over 4 years ago

    68 Comments

    More liberal bullshit.

  • Blending__can_t_see_me_can_you__sq90_max50

    Fastfreddy

    over 4 years ago

    602 Comments

    I can't believe they are going to allow people that have shown a past of making bad decisions to vote. Not that any politician is much good IMO anyway but felons shouldn't be given a say in what's best for a society that they don't seem to care about the rules.

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    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    FELONS should not vote. Their voting rights were take because they are hey....CRIMINALS who BROKE THE LAW. ..FELONS! This is what has happened to Washington State dear people. This is what happens to a country when the people are denied rights and the criminals are given rights to maintain status quo. Take a good look and rememer to VOTE in the next election... if this country can last 'til then.

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    rschum56629

    over 4 years ago

    30 Comments

    what a joke!

  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max50_max50

    Gombino

    over 4 years ago

    2658 Comments

    What a crock! Race isn't the issue. These people are FELONS.

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    CAREBEAR911

    over 4 years ago

    192 Comments

    What is it about that 9th Circuit? For me it's like a Catch 22. You know, if I ever need a circuit for me I hope it's the 9th. Of course that's my lucky number.. number 9

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jlewis308

    over 4 years ago

    46 Comments

    Its from the 9th Circuit... What else would you expect. Kinda like the Taser ruling they came out with not long ago. But, I guess if you are from the land of fruit and nuts, you gotta expect this type of ruling to come down..... Glad I live on the other coast....

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