Monday, May 17, 2010

Supreme Court May Tackle Question Of Whether Felons Can Be Barred From Voting

Earlier this month the Supreme Court asked the Obama Administration's opinion on whether a state's law that bars convicted felons from voting violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  The case in which this issue is being tackled is Simmons v. Galvin.  In that case, Massachusetts Article 10, an amendment to the state constitution, bars felons from voting while they are in prison.  13 other states have similar laws on the books.  35 other states extend the prohibition on voting beyond prison, to parole, probation and beyond.  Only Maine and Vermont have no restrictions on a felon's right to vote.  Roughly 5.3 million felons have been barred from voting by these laws.  Roughly thirty-eight percent of those felons are African American.  The claim is that the Voting Rights Act is being violated because of the disparate impact on African Americans.  The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to take on the Simmons case.  By requesting that the U.S. Solicitor General file a brief on the case, they are signaling that they are seriously considering tackling this delicate and contentious issue.

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