OLYMPIA – Washington state wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it has to give felons in prison the right to vote.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna said Wednesday he will ask the nation’s highest court to review an appeals court ruling that felons in prison and under community supervision have the right to vote under the federal Voting Rights Act.
McKenna, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed all said Wednesday they oppose the 2-1 ruling handed down Tuesday from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case began in 1996 and has bounced back and forth between federal district court and the appeals court, McKenna said. “It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the split,” he said.
“I think that case is not done,” Gregoire said during a presentation to reporters gathered for a legislative preview. “When you violate laws in the state, you lose your civil rights.”
Washington changed its laws last year to make it easier for felons to regain their voting rights after they’ve completed their sentences. But the ruling by the appeals court goes further and could affect other states as well.
The U.S. Constitution, the Washington constitution and the laws of 47 other states take away voting rights from felons, Reed said. All of those laws that restrict felons from voting “hang in the balance” because of the appeals court ruling, McKenna said.