ACLU petitions to have court rehear voting rights case

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 6:30pm
Staff reports

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee announced Wednesday they have filed a petition with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a case challenging a Tennessee law that denies voting rights to people with felony convictions and who have outstanding financial obligations related to their conviction or who owe child support.

In a release, the ACLU claims the law violates both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. Previously, a three-judge panel in a 2-1 decision dismissed the case.

“Denying voting rights to those who have served their time based solely on their inability to pay a particular debt amounts to unconstitutional discrimination,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “This law is particularly hard on indigent and low-income people who are trying to put their lives back together. Restoring the right to vote is critical for these individuals to re-integrate into society, and it should not be withheld based on economic status.”

The ACLU said the court was “wrong to dismiss this case, especially in light of Supreme Court cases which routinely have struck down similar laws that discriminate on the basis of wealth.”



5 Comments on this post:

By: AmyLiorate on 11/10/10 at 9:28

While I agree with the spirit of this case, and indeed we don't have debtors prison in this country... one has to wonder about what this may lead to.

Sure you have fulfilled your sentence, oh wait - except for that restitution! So in effect you haven't completed paying (literally) for your crime. So now would it be more prudent for the judge to put you back into jail for contempt after not paying for a year?

Probably not. But look at the case of someone who isn't paying child support. Since people are often never jailed for non-payment but still in contempt the ACLU's statement doesn't apply:
“Denying voting rights to those who have served their time based solely on their inability to pay a particular debt amounts to unconstitutional discrimination”

Personally I think that once someone has not paid child support for several months a good wake up call would be to spend a few hours in jail, just a holding cell. That would probably shock most people and spur them to action!

By: tpaine on 11/11/10 at 3:40

Yeah and the same eastcoast, Ivy League educated, ACLU liberals which is so concerned about felon's rights will fight like the Dickens to ban a simple photo ID to eliminate voter fraud because they support the socialist Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda which just got blasted at the polls.
We need to find out the supporters of this organization and start a nationwide boycott against them.

By: govskeptic on 11/11/10 at 6:27

Yes, this is certainly the same group that is so opposed to the
requirement of real and true identification at the polls or when
reqistering, which is where the state should be more concerned.
I must disagree on the Child support portion, as many are caught
up in that, often because of lack of a job through no fault of
their own. They are totally different than convicted felons who have
not completed their sentence through restitution payments. Most
of the public doesn't know what hugh taxpayer funded awards the
Federal Judges hand out to the ACLU when they do win these cases!

By: skeptic1 on 11/12/10 at 8:20

In the state where I grew up and for as long as I can remember, felons lost their right to vote permanently. It was supposed to be part of the punishment for the crime. I was shocked to find out a few years ago that the law on voting rights varied from state to state. I don't feel comfortable about the validity of the laws in a state where FELONS have the same input as law abiding citizens.

The ACLU, et al. are absolutely wrong about requirements for positive or biometric. I think my vote as a law abiding, registered voter should be worth more than a host of dead people and illegal immigrants.

I'm not so sure about any debtor restrictions since anyone can fall on difficult financial times.

By: MJB on 11/14/10 at 3:59

Good for you, A.C.L.U.! Keep fighting for universal enfranchisement!