Monday, November 08, 2004

Supreme Court Declines to Hear 2 Cases Weighing the Right of Felons to Vote

This just in from the Times

The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from applying any "voting qualification or prerequisite" in a manner that has a racially discriminatory effect. Inmates and their advocates who are bringing the lawsuits point out that the impact of the felon-disenfranchisement laws falls disproportionately on members of minority groups, particularly on black men. The number of people barred from voting under the state laws is estimated to be 3.9 million, with more than one-third of them black men.

And, might I add, America is a constitutional democracy. It's difficult to imagine how the disenfranchising of felons might be justified, when the point of voting is to elect legislators, who make controversial decisions about what counts as a crime. One has the sense, for example, that The War on Drugs is politically popular in part because it helps The War on Blacks. In reference to a third, Florida case:

...Florida's life-long felon disenfranchisement law, which bans an estimated 600,000 state residents from voting. The plaintiffs presented evidence that Florida's law, which dates to 1868, was enacted with the intention of keeping the newly enfranchised blacks from voting.

Many lawyers following the issue believe that the Florida case... is the strongest of the lawsuits because the facts have been extensively developed and the state's history of discrimination is clear.

We hope the Supreme Court will hear this Florida case.


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