United States Court of Appeals to Hear Mississippi Voting Rights Case | Mississippi News

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By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) – A federal appeals court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday in a lawsuit to overturn Mississippi’s ban on the franchise for those convicted of certain crimes – a case that could affect thousands of people.

The original list of crimes of disenfranchisement was inserted into the Mississippi Constitution in 1890 because the drafters of the constitution believed these crimes “were committed disproportionately by African Americans,” according to the written arguments of lawyers challenging the ban. Lawyers also argue that denial of the right to vote continues to disproportionately harm black people.

Lawyers representing the state have said Mississippi removed burglary from the list of voting crimes in 1950 and added murder and rape to the list in 1968. They have stated in written submissions that the changes “cured any discriminatory interference with the original provision”.

The Mississippi Constitution removes the right to vote from those convicted of 10 crimes, including forgery, arson and bigamy. The attorney general issued an opinion in 2009 that expanded the list to 22 crimes, including wood theft, carjacking, criminal shoplifting and writing bad checks.

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In the case heard Wednesday by the 5th United States Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs do not challenge the deprivation of the vote of those convicted of murder or rape.

To regain the right to vote in Mississippi now, a person convicted of a crime of deprivation of the vote must receive the governor’s pardon or must obtain two-thirds clearance from the State House and Senate. . In recent years, lawmakers have passed a small number of bills to restore the right to vote. Bills to restore the right to vote to 28 people were introduced this year. Two of them passed, and Republican Gov. Tate Reeves let both become law without his signature.

Federal lawsuits were filed in Mississippi in 2017 and 2018 demanding automatic reinstatement of voting rights for people who had finished serving sentences for disenfranchisement crimes.

The case heard on Wednesday comes from the lawsuit filed in 2017.

A panel of judges from the 5th Circuit heard in December 2019 the arguments of the other case, which present different arguments. This panel did not render a ruling.

The Sentencing Project, a national advocacy group that seeks to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, said in a 2020 report that more than 5 million people in the United States are disenfranchised due to convictions criminal. He said that included more than 8% of adults in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. The report also says Mississippi is one of seven states where more than one in seven blacks are disenfranchised, twice the national average.

In November 2018, voters in Florida passed a state constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote to most convicted felons after serving their sentences, with the exception of those convicted of murder or murder. sexual offenses. It has been estimated to affect over a million people, although many voting rights advocates were outraged by a court ruling which later concluded that a Floridian’s rights could not be restored. until all fines, restitution and legal fees had been paid.

Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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