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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

When Should a Voter’s “Clerical Error” Invalidate a Ballot?

Edward B. Foley

Not when the state already has enough information to verify the ballot’s validity.

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In the News

Daniel P. Tokaji

An Obscure Ohio State Law Could Shake Up the Republican Convention

Professor Dan Tokaji was quoted in an ABC News article about the Republican Convention:

“It’s entirely imaginable that these kind of controversies will emerge if Donald Trump goes into Cleveland without 1,237,” said Dan Tokaji, an expert in election law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, referring the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination. “There’s going to be a furious jockeying for these delegates.”

more EL@M in the news...

Info & Analysis

Michigan Federal Judge Blocks Law Prohibiting Straight Ticket Voting

U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain issued an opinion blocking enforcement of a Michigan law prohibiting straight-ticket voting. This voting method allows voters to easily select the entire slate of candidates on the ballot from a particular party. Michigan abolished straight-ticket voting by enacting a law effective in January. In granting the plaintffs\' motion for a preliminary injunction, Judge Drain determined that the law \"presents a disproportionate burden on African-Americans\' right to vote.\" The case is Michigan State A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Johnson.

more info & analysis...