May 04, 2006

Breaking News: En Banc Second Circuit Court Holds NY Felon Disenfranchisement Law Does Not Violate Section 2 of Voting Rights Act

Howard Bashman offers this report:

    En banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holds that the federal Voting Rights Act does not apply to New York's prisoner disenfranchisement law: Thirteen judges participated in today's ruling, which consists of ten separate opinions.
    The majority opinion explains, "Our holding is based on our conclusion that Congress did not intend or understand the Voting Rights Act to encompass such felon disenfranchisement statutes, that application of the Voting Rights Act to felon disenfranchisement statutes such as these would alter the constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government, and that Congress at the very least did not clearly indicate that it intended the Voting Rights Act to alter the federal balance in this way."

    In a second, related case, the en banc Second Circuit today unanimously dismissed the case because the plaintiff lacked standing.

Perhaps this will get the attention of the Supreme Court, especially given the circuit split (with the en banc Eleventh Circuit agreeing with this new Second Circuit opinion and the Ninth Circuit (over a dissent from a denial of en banc rehearing) holding that section 2 can allow for challenges to felon disenfranchisement laws). On the other hand, given my belief that the Supreme Court would likely agree with the Second Circuit (for some reasons I discuss here), perhaps the Supreme Court will wait for the Ninth Circuit case to make its way back to the Surpreme Court (that case is currently before the district court on remand from the Ninth Circuit).

Posted by Rick Hasen at May 4, 2006 09:43 AM