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Fed Court: Mississippi to Defend Stripping Voting Rights From Felons

Nineteen federal appellate judges are scheduled to hear arguments today (Tuesday) on whether Mississippi can continue to permanently strip voting rights from people convicted of certain felonies, including nonviolent crimes for which they have served a complete sentence. The outcome of the case will likely determine whether tens of thousands of people win back the right to vote, the Associated Press reports.

Attorneys for the state argue that the voting ban is a “nonpunitive voting regulation” and that, even if it did constitute punishment, it isn’t cruel and unusual. The court’s 17 full-time active judges are expected to hear arguments, along with two senior-status part-time judges who sat on a panel that ruled against the ban in August. Under the Mississippi Constitution, people convicted of 10 specific felonies, including bribery, theft and arson, lose the right to vote. Under a previous state attorney general, the list was expanded to 22 crimes, including timber larceny and carjacking. To have have their voting rights restored, people convicted of any of the crimes must get a pardon from the governor or persuade lawmakers to pass individual bills just for them with two-thirds approval. Lawmakers in recent years have passed few of those bills; they passed none in 2023.


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