Can felons force states to let them vote? Ninth Circuit to rehear Farrakhan v. Gregoire


Author: Ralph W. Kasarda

In an earlier post on the Liberty Blog, I described how the Ninth Circuit had ordered the parties in Farrakhan v. Gregoire to submit briefs setting forth their respective positions on whether the case should be reheard.  After considering those briefs, the Ninth Circuit has in fact ordered the case to be reheard en banc.  The court's order can be found here.

Recall that in Farrakhan, the Ninth Circuit split from other circuits by holding that convicted felons may challenge a state's felon disenfranchisement law under the federal Voting Rights Act by showing racial disparities in the state's criminal justice system – such as disparities in arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and sentencing.  In doing so, the court held that Washington's law prohibiting felons from voting denied felons the right to vote based upon their race.

As my earier post showed, all other circuits that have heard similar cases have rejected the argument that felons can challenge state felon disenfranchisement laws under the Voting Rights Act.   Should the Ninth Circuit continue to interpret the Voting Rights Act differently than the other circuits, the case would likely go to the Supreme Court.  You can read more about the case here