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Election Law @ Moritz

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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

Gerrymandering Is Headed Back to the Supreme Court

Professor Edward Foley was requoted in Mother Jones about a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin on its way to the Supreme Court. Other legal actions on partisan gerrymandering in Maryland and in North Carolina may be bound for the Supreme Court as well.

While previous Supreme Court cases have noted that partisan gerrymanders are “incompatible with democratic principles,” The New York Times originally reported, the court has never officially struck a case down. While it remains unseen how the Supreme Court will rule in the upcoming cases, a 2004 ruling from a previous gerrymandering case could play a pivotal role in how the court stands in the future. 

“The ordered working of our Republic, and of the democratic process, depends on a sense of decorum and restraint in all branches of government, and in the citizenry itself,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in 2004. Kennedy’s statement is “the most important line” in the decision, Foley told The New York Times, adding,  “He’s going to look at what’s going on in North Carolina as the complete absence of that. I think that helps the plaintiffs in any of these cases.”


 

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Info & Analysis

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms District Court: NC Redistricting Unconstitutional

In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the District Court, finding that North Carolina\'s Congressional redistricting plan violated the U.S. Constitution. The Court determined that racial considerations unlawfully predominated the designing of the contested districts. The case is Cooper v. Harris.

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