The Equal Justice Society (EJS), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and American Parole and Probation Association submitted an Amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit case Farrakhan v. Gregoire, which will determine whether Washington State’s felon disenfranchisement law violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). (Download a PDF of the brief here.)
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held that Washington State’s law denying the vote to people with felony convictions is racially discriminatory and violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The case is now scheduled for rehearing en banc by an eleven-judge panel in September.
EJS agrees with the three-judge panel’s conclusion that Washington’s law is racially discriminatory and violates the VRA by disproportionately disenfranchising both individuals and communities of color. As a result of Washington’s law, 24 percent of Black men and 15 percent of Washington’s Black population have lost their voting rights because of felony convictions.
Our brief, in particular, focuses on the importance of voting rights to successful reintegration and rehabilitation for formerly incarcerated persons. Not only do felon disenfranchisement policies impede political participation and successful re-entry of formerly incarcerated individuals, they also impact entire communities by diluting their collective voting strength.
Section 2 of the VRA was enacted to protect against racial discrimination in voting, and prohibits states from using any voter qualification system that results in a denial of the right to vote on account of race or color. EJS encourages the en banc panel to uphold the panel’s decision and strike down Washington’s racially discriminatory law.
The law firm Cooley LLP provided assistance on the brief.