OLYMPIA, Wash. – Incarcerated felons should be allowed to vote in Washington to ensure that racial minorities are protected under the Voting Rights Act, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2000 ruling of a district judge in Spokane. That judge had ruled that state law did not violate the act, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former prison inmate from Bellevue.
While I do believe that voter rights should be restored upon completion of sentence, I also believe this ruling to be wrong. I do not believe that inmates should be allowed to vote, regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, marital status or any other exception.
This state law was applied in all cases, but because there is a higher number of persons of color who are incarcerated, the 9th Circuit Court believes it is “diluting” the voter pool.
Sorry, but that there are a higher number of persons of color in prison is reflective of many factors – unequal application of criminal laws, access to better attorneys and the like, which need to be addressed separately from voting issues by reform within the legal and judicial systems.