On its face, Farakkhan v. Gregoire is about whether felons have the right to vote. But it's really about institutionalized racism: namely whether Washington's criminal justice system treats minorities unfairly.
"You have vast disproportionate rates of incarceration and sentencing for African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans," said Dale Ho, one of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the 14-year-old case. They claim that due to racism built into the court system, the state's law banning felons from voting violates the 1965 Voter Rights Act. "Black defendants convicted of crimes lose their right to vote 50 percent longer than white defendants," Ho said.