Farrakhan v. Gregoire raises the question as to whether Washington State’s felon disfranchisement law violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Section 2 prohibits states from using any voting qualification that results in a denial of the right to vote on account of race or color.
LDF and University Legal Assistance at Gonzaga University School of Law represent the plaintiffs.
The Ninth Circuit found undisputed “compelling” evidence that racial discrimination in Washington State’s criminal justice system at every level—from police stops to arrests to the filing of charges to incarceration— operated to shift inequality into the political process, causing the disproportionate denial of the right to vote to Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans. As a result, an astonishing 24% of all black men in Washington State, and 15% of the entire Black population, were denied their voting rights.
Significantly, Plaintiffs evidence showed that that the racial disparities in Washington State’s criminal justice system are not reflective of the extent to which racial minorities actually participate in criminal activity.
Nationwide, more than 5.3 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony are denied access to the one fundamental right that is the foundation of all other rights, nearly 2 million or roughly 38% are African-Americans. Maine and Vermont are the only states nationwide that do not restrict voting on the basis of a felony conviction, and allow inmates to vote from prison by absentee ballot.
A staggering 13% of all African-American men in this country are disfranchised, and in some states up to one-third of the entire African-American male population is denied the right to vote. Given current rates of incarceration, approximately one in three of the next generation of black men will be disfranchised at some point during their lifetime.
LDF is the nation’s leading voice in the struggle to secure the right to vote for people with felony convictions, widely recognized as the next phase of the voting rights movement.