ACLU Loses Appeal on Felons Voting

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of lawsuit filed by the ACLU, which claimed convicted felons in Mississippi were being denied their constitutional right to vote in presidential elections.

A Mississippi federal judge had dismissed the case last March.

A three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Thursday the state of Mississippi can write restrictions on voting into its constitution, including to bar certain felons voting.

The ACLU contended the state constitution allows felons to vote for president, even though Mississippi residents convicted of some crimes are prohibited from casting ballots in other elections.

The 5th Circuit panel said Mississippi's law and constitution clearly ban voting by convicted felons in all elections. The ban, the panel said, does not violate federal election laws.

"We are, of course, disappointed with the opinion of the court of appeals since we read the state law as allowing felons to vote in presidential elections," said ACLU attorney Laughlin McDonald. "Among our options are to seek en banc review by the court of appeals or to petition the Supreme Court for review. But at this point we haven't determined how we will proceed."

The Mississippi Constitution lists 21 crimes that take away a convict's right to vote: arson, armed robbery, bigamy, bribery, embezzlement, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, forgery, larceny, murder, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, rape, receiving stolen property, robbery, theft, timber larceny, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, statutory rape and carjacking.

The constitution initially listed 10 crimes that would strip voting rights. Eleven other crimes were added in 2004 based on a state attorney general's opinion.

Other felonies not on the list, such as dealing drugs, don't affect voting rights.

The attorney general's office had said the constitution and a companion statute can only be interpreted that "those convicted of a disenfranchising crime are precluded from voting in any election."

Secretary Hosemann Comments on 5th Circuit Ruling Regarding Felons Voting

“I applaud the ruling," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. "It only makes sense that convicted murderers and rapists being fed at taxpayer expense should not vote on the Judge and District Attorney who placed them in prison.”

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