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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

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A Special Master for the Cohen Case?

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There should be a strong presumption against special treatment just because the president is involved. 

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In the News

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Yes, American democracy is in peril — but don’t blame the bots

A post written by Prof. Edward Foley for SCOTUSblog about Justice Anthony Kennedy’s jurisprudence on voting rights was quoted in Salon.

 

“For Kennedy, freedom comes first and democracy second, and … the purpose of democracy is to preserve and promote personal liberty,” Foley writes. 

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Info & Analysis

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