OLYMPIA— Inmates in Washington state prisons don’t have a constitutional right to vote in elections, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.
Washington doesn’t allow felons to vote unless they have their rights restored, and attorneys argued that’s discriminatory against minorities, whose percentage of the prison population is greater than the population in general.
A federal trial court agreed there is discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system.
But the federal appeals court said today that’s not a violation of the Voting Rights Act. There’s no evidence that the law requiring felons to get their rights back before voting was enacted with the goal of disenfranchising minorities.
In fact, laws in Washington denying the vote to felons go back to 1866, while the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.