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Second Circuit Orders District Court to Decided Vote Dilution Case

On June 1, 2006, the Second Circuit court of appeals remanded a case challenging the legality of the New York felon disenfranchisement laws (FDL), New York Constitution, Art. II, § 3 and New York Election Law § 5-106.

This class-action civil rights suit was filed in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the FDL violated prisoners' civil rights under the First, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971(a)(1), 1971(a)(2)(A), 1971(a)(2)(B) and 1973 (The Voting Rights Act); certain international treaties and international law. The district court granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the suit. Plaintiffs appealed. Thirteen amici curiae filed briefs.

The Second Circuit consolidated the Voting Rights Act claim of the suit with another case making the same claim. The case was deconsolidated when it was discovered that the plaintiffs in the other action lacked standing. The Second Circuit then ruled that the FDL did not violate the Voting Rights Act.

The Second Circuit also held that the plaintiffs may have raised a claim, unaddressed by the district court, that the votes of persons living in New York City were being diluted by the apportionment process that counts prisoners as residents of their location of incarceration, not the location of their last residence. This allegedly dilutes city votes by assigning a larger population to the upstate portions of the state where the prisons are at the expense of the city. That claim was remanded to the district court for a ruling while the Second Circuit retained and held in abeyance the remaining claims. See: Hayden v. Pataki, 449 F. 3d 305 (2nd Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

Hayden v. Pataki