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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

Commentary

Edward B. Foley

The Electoral Fix We Really Need

Edward B. Foley

The Electoral College winner should be the majority choice in each state that counts towards that Electoral College victory.

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In the News

Edward B. Foley

White House drops Obama-era discrimination claim against Texas voter ID law

Professor Edward Foley was quoted in The Christian Science Monitor in an article about how the Trump administration dropped a discrimination claim against a Texas voter ID law. Viewed as one of the strictest voting requirements in the country by voting rights advocates, the law required voters to show one of seven valid forms of ID.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law disproportionately impacted minorities and those living in poverty. The court required the state to adjust its requirements before the general election. According to court testimony, Hispanic voters were twice as likely to lack proper ID under the law, while black voters were three times as likely.

“Voting litigation is increasing, not decreasing,” Foley said. “The main impression … is that when a law looks like it’s engaging in outright disenfranchisement of a valid voter, even conservative judges have been stopping that. [But] the judiciary is more tolerant with state legislatures adjusting issues of convenience and accessibility, if the adjustment is not outright disenfranchisement.”
 

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Info & Analysis

Three-Judge Panel Finds Voting Rights Act and Constitutional Violations in Creation of Texas House of Representatives Districts

A little over a month after ruling that Texas\' Congressional redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Consistution, a three-judge panel similarly ruled (2-1) with regard to the creation of Texas\' state-level House of Representatives districts. The court issued a 171-page order in which it ruled for the state on some claims. The court also made separate findings of fact. The case is Perez v. Abbott.

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