Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Supreme Court May Take on Felon Voting Rights

with one comment

As explained by Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court signaled today that it may take on the issue of felon voting rights:

In a brief order, the Justices invited the U.S. Solicitor General to offer views on the case of Simmons, et al., v. Galvin (09-920), a test of Massachusetts’ law prohibiting voting by those who were convicted of serious crimes, while they remain in prison. Once the Court receives that response, for which there is no timetable, the Justices will decide whether to accept the case for review. That is not likely to come until the next Term, starting in October.

In the Massachusetts case, the inmates raise two issues: whether denial of voting rights to imprisoned felons violates federal voting rights law, on the theory that race bias in the criminal justice system sends more minorities to prison so the resulting loss of voting privileges is in effect based on race, and whether it violates the Constitution’s ban on ex post facto laws to impose the loss of voting as an after-the-fact punishment for an earlier crime.

Though the First Circuit rejected both of those arguments, the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that an antidiscrimination challenge to felon disenfranchisement may proceed. That ruling is now being reconsidered by the en banc Ninth Circuit.

One Response

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  1. Anyway, the question for my “legal scholars and friends” is not who you or I think should be entitled to vote. That is not the system under which we live in. Our Constitution has the potential to deliver promise and guaranteed voting rights no matter what a person’s opinion is or how well that opinion is founded. The next issue is of course, if it does not, does the Federal government have the power to enforce on the States its judgment on the matter? As my mother would say on this one, “Some things are an act of God, other things are an act of Congress.” I guess if the Surpreme Court hears the issue this is the last step in exhausting all administrative remedies before we have to appeal to heaven.

    Angellee Kidd

    May 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm


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