(CN) – The 9th Circuit has ruled for convicted felons in Washington who argued that racial discrimination in the criminal justice system disproportionately disenfranchises minorities, because convicted felons aren’t allowed to vote.
The three-judge panel in Seattle reversed for the second time the district court’s ruling for the state.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated that the discriminatory impact of Washington’s felon disenfranchisement is attributable to discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system,” a violation of the Voting Rights Act, Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the 2-1 majority.
Judge Margaret McKeown dissented, saying there was no “analytical distinction” between vote denial and vote dilution cases. In her view, felon disenfranchisement challenges are not a “comfortable fit” with the Voting Rights Act.
McKeown said the district court was a more appropriate venue for vote denial cases, and the majority opinion crossed into “chartered territory that none of our sister circuits has dared to explore.”