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Court puts hold on felon voting

OLYMPIA – Voter registration drives may as well skip the state prisons for now.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary hold on its order that felons should be able to vote in Washington, even if they are in prison.

The Appeals Court on Thursday granted a request for a stay from state officials while Washington asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. The Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will consider the case.

Earlier this month, the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 that the disproportionate number of minorities in prison in Washington amounts to automatic disenfranchisement and violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

State officials were quick to say they would appeal, and most other states, which also bar convicted felons from voting unless they get their rights restored, are watching the case closely.

The stay lasts until the Supreme Court either hears the case and rules, or two weeks after it says it won’t consider the case.

Last year, lawmakers agreed to let convicted felons re-register to vote once they’re no longer on parole or probation. Previously, felons who were no longer in state custody but owed court-ordered fines and restitution were barred from voting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.