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Fifth Circuit Holds Mississippi Felons May Not Vote in Presidential Elections

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that there was no exception to the disenfranchisement of felons in Mississippi state law that would allow them to vote in presidential elections.

Assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Jerry Young and Christy Colley, persons previously convicted of felonies under Mississippi state law, filed a § 1983 civil rights lawsuit in federal district court alleging that § 241 of the Mississippi Constitution granted felons the right to vote in presidential elections. They alleged that Mississippi’s denying them the right to so vote violated their Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection rights and the National Voter Registration Act. The district court agreed with Mississippi that the plaintiffs had misinterpreted § 241 and dismissed the suit. Plaintiffs appealed.

The Fifth Circuit held that the claims had been properly brought under the Equal Protection Clause and NVRA. However, the plain language of § 241 did not support plaintiffs’ interpretation. The language that plaintiffs believed exempted felons from disenfranchisement in presidential elections instead merely stated that Congress could add additional qualifications to voters voting in presidential elections in addition to the qualifications already imposed by Mississippi state law. Therefore, the dismissal was affirmed. See: Young v. Hosemann, 598 F.3d 184 (5th Cir. 2010).

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Related legal case

Young v. Hosemann