OSU Navigation Bar

Election Law @ Moritz Home Page

Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz


Litigation

Farrakhan v. Gregoire

Case Information

Date Filed: October 26, 1999
State: Washington
Issue: Felon Voting Rights
Courts that Heard this Case: U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington (Case 2:96-cv-00076-RHW); U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (Case 06-35669)

Issue:

Whether a felon disenfranchisement statute violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, when the primary source of discrimination complained of is caused by external sources.

Status:

On remand, the district court granted the state of Washington’s motion for summary judgment. The court considered the impact of racial discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system, but found that the totality of the circumstances did not support a violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, basing its decision on the plaintiffs’ failure to prove intentional discrimination. Oral Argument held 9/21/10.  Per Curiam Opinion issued 10/7/10.

Summary

In this case convicted felons claim that Article VI, Section 3 of the Washington State Constitution, which denies felons the right to vote, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it has a disparate impact on minorities.

The District Court granted summary judgment for the state of Washington because the racial discrimination was attributable to outside sources, in particular the criminal justice system. As the cause of the disparate impact is external to the felon disenfranchisement statute, the plaintiffs could not prove a causal connection. The Court of Appeals, however, reversed and remanded the case. Using a "totality of the circumstances" test, the Court held that the law's interaction with external factors should have been considered. As the criminal justice system is an external factor directly affecting the disenfranchisement statute, it should have been considered by the District Court.

On remand, the District Court again granted summary judgment for the state of Washington. The court considered the impact of racial discrimination in Washington's criminal justice system, but found that the totality of the circumstances did not show a violation of section two of the Voting Rights Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision, basing its decision on plaintiffs' failure to prove intentional discrimination.

Court of Appeals Documents

District Court Documents

Related Links

In the News

Edward B. Foley

Symposium: Wechsler, history and gerrymandering

A post written by Professor Edward Foley was published on SCOTUSblog.

“When we look back on the half-century since Sullivan, we see a legacy in which the Supreme Court itself contributed to America’s growth as a people committed to political freedom. Sullivan is entrenched as precedent precisely because it is now indelibly part of our national self-understanding," Foley writes. "For Gill to be successful like Sullivan, it too will need to become woven into our sense of America as a democracy. The way for Gill to accomplish this is to declare: 'Although the original Gerry-mander was never tested in this Court, the attack on its validity has carried the day in the court of history.' If the court says this, then 50 years from now—thanks in large part to Gill itself—we may have matured into the genuinely representative democracy we are still striving to be.”
 

more EL@M in the news...

Info & Analysis

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a gerrymandering case involving Wisconsin state legislative districts. The court also granted a request by the state to temporarily block the lower court\'s decision until the appeal is resolved. The case is Gill v. Whitford.

more info & analysis...