Push to get rid of Mississippi’s felony voting ban continues with request for SCOTUS to take it up

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:19 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Not every felony conviction in Mississippi involves people losing their voting rights, but 22 of them do. However, some legal groups say that constitutional provisions in the state must be reviewed and struck down.

“Mississippi is keeping a provision of the 1890 constitution in place that everyone agrees was racially discriminatory when it was adopted,” described Deputy Director of Impact Litigation for the Mississippi Center for Justice Paloma Wu.

The Mississippi Center for Justice is asking that the U.S. Supreme Court take a look at the case involving Mississippi disenfranchising crimes. Other legal groups have filed similar cases that are also still caught up in court. And two of those groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, signed a brief last week encouraging the justices to consider this issue. There has been a simultaneous push for lawmakers to get rid of the ban while it’s pending in the judicial system.

“You would like to see us take action to do this,” noted the Director of Political Campaigns for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Brandon Jones. “But in the absence of that, we would like to see the courts take this way, put us on the same footing that other states have with a reasonable restoration process.”

Both organizations say that they won’t hit pause on the legislative push while they wait on word from the justices.

“We think, and a lot of other people think, that the Mississippi Legislature should be the one doing it,” described Wu. “Those are the people that were elected in order to fix our books. This is a moral compass issue that we could fix. It’s a justice issue.”

It’s not an easy ask since it takes added steps to change a constitutional provision.

“I think it’s notable that in the last statewide election, Mississippi decided to remove one of those Jim Crow provisions,” said Jones. “We’ve changed our state flag. We have been on a recent trajectory of getting rid of these vestiges of the Jim Crow South. So, you would like to see us take action to do this.”

Right now, the only way voting rights can be restored in Mississippi is through a pardon from the governor or a two-thirds vote of the state House and Senate, which is relatively rare.

Those disenfranchising crimes include: Murder, Rape, Bribery, Theft, Arson, Obtaining Money or Goods under False Pretenses, Perjury, Forgery, Embezzlement, Bigamy, Armed Robbery, Extortion, Felony Bad Check, Felony Shoplifting, Larceny, Perjury, Receiving Stolen Property, Timber Larceny, Unlawful Taking of Motor Vehicle, Statutory Rape, Carjacking, or Larceny Under Lease or Rental Agreement.

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