/Voting rights Federal appeals court told state’s lifetime ban violates Eighth and 14th Amendments

Voting rights Federal appeals court told state’s lifetime ban violates Eighth and 14th Amendments

Hopkins was seated in a New Orleans federal courtroom by his wife and a childhood pal. A panel of three judges from the 5th U.S. stood in front of Hopkins. Circuit Court of Appeals presided at oral arguments in the case, which concerns Mississippi’s disqualification of people from voting after certain felony convictions. Hopkins is one six plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit. Hopkins was convicted of grand larceny in 1998 and is now a foster parent, child’s sports coach, and municipal employee. He cannot vote in Mississippi. Hopkins stated that it is not about Dennis Hopkins voting. “It’s not about Dennis Hopkins voting,” Hopkins said. Mississippi currently prohibits those convicted of certain disqualifying offenses from voting for the rest their lives. These laws, which were established by the 1890 state Constitution, stipulate that suffrage cannot be restored unless a legislator sponsors a suffrage bill. This bill must then be approved by both the House of the Senate or a governor’s pardon. The attorney general’s office has identified 22 disenfranchising offenses, including theft and arson, perjury as well as embezzlement, timber larceny, and perjury. Kentucky and Iowa are the only two states that have lifetime bans on disenfranchising crime convictions. According to one estimate, Mississippi is the most disenfranchised state in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center in New York and Simpson Thacher, representing plaintiffs, argue that people who have served their sentences should have their right to vote restored immediately. They claim that the lifetime voting ban is in violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, and the 14th Amendment which allows states to temporarily “abridge”, someone’s voting rights after a crime. Krissy Nobile representing the state before a three-judge panel on Tuesday said that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows permanent disenfranchisement following a felony. Nobile stated that plaintiffs do not have “present-day proof” of unconstitutional consequences of the law. After both sides appealed to a district court ruling in which Judge Daniel P. Jordan III dismissed all but one plaintiff’s challenges, the appellate court agreed that the case would be heard on an expedited basis. Nobile claimed that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann should not be sued as his office is not authorized to restore voting rights. The state Legislature is. Nobile stated that if the court held the secretary of state accountable, no convicted felon would be able to receive a suffrage measure. “No felon convicted will be re-enfranchised.” Jonathan Youngwood (an attorney for plaintiffs) cited a passage rate for individual suffrage bill that is currently effectively “zero.” Youngwood also noted that states have been increasingly moving away from lifetime voting bans over the past 50 years. Youngwood stated that the notion of losing the right to vote for most of your life, after you’ve served your sentence, is a punishment. Judge Edith Jones asked Youngwood several questions. She wanted to know if plaintiffs were trying re-enfranchise those convicted of murder and rape, and if the secretary of states was the right office being sued. The American Probation and Parole Association and the Cato Institute, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, filed briefs supporting the plaintiffs. Hopkins and his lawyers gathered in Lafayette Square across from the courthouse to support the plaintiffs. They were joined by representatives from Louisiana and Mississippi. Hopkins stated, “I am fighting for the right, I am standing up for people in Mississippi that made mistakes in life,” Hopkins added. Hopkins said, “I) rectified my mistake and I am now ready to vote and restore the right of a human being and a man. Because you must move on. Because we’re holding back to our old methods.” A separate challenge to Mississippi’s lifetime felony voter ban filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice will also be considered by the appellate court. Plaintiffs claim that Mississippi’s voter disenfranchisement laws were designed to trap African Americans who, according to the state Constitution, are more likely to commit certain types of crimes. Hosemann is also named as the defendant in that suit.