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Edward B. Foley
Free & Fair is a collection of writings by Edward B. Foley, one of the nation's preeminent experts on election law.

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Recent Felon Disenfranchisement Decisions

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January 5, 2010

Two separate courts have ruled on cases dealing with felon disenfranchisement in recent days. In Farrakhan v. Gregoire, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth District held that the plaintiffs had “demonstrated that the discriminatory impact of Washington’s felon disenfranchisement is attributable to racial discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system” and thus the felon disenfranchisement law violates § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs.

In Janis v. Nelson, the focus was on felons who were removed from voter registration lists after being sentenced to probation, rather than incarceration. The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota denied most of the state defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, keeping alive claims based on federal and state constitutional and statutory grounds. One of the more interesting claims that survived is based on the Help America Vote Act’s state voter registration list maintenance requirements.