indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Washington court to consider felon voting rights
Tuesday, November 9, 2004

A Native American man who has been denied the right to vote because he is a convicted felon will get his case heard due to an action by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

Clifton Briceno is a Cherokee man who was imprisoned in Washington. Under the state constitution, he can never vote again because he was convicted of an "infamous crime."

Washington state felons can have their voting rights restored if they obtain a pardon or clemency from the governor or if a review board reinstates them. But regardless of the process, Briceno and five other minority inmates say the practice violates the federal Voting Rights Act because it has a disproportionate effect on Native Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans.

The nation's high court expressed no view on the subject. But in refusing to hear the case, it sent the dispute back to a federal court in Washington where Briceno and the other inmates can present their arguments again.

The issue is significant because it could set precedent for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is home to a large number of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Every state in the circuit imposes limits on the rights of felons to vote.

Arizona, Nevada and Washington, for example, do not allow ex-felons to vote. Alaska and California extends that to paroled felons, with Alaska not allowing those who are on probation to vote either.

After hearing the case, a federal judge back in 2000 agreed that Washington law "disenfranchises a disproportionate number" of Native Americans and other minorities. In Washington, Native Americans are 3 percent of the prison population but only 1 percent of the general population. The Native incarceration rate in the state is 537 per 100,000, a rate three times higher than that of Whites.

But U.S. District Judge Robert H. Whaley concluded that the denial of voting rights did not violate federal law because the minority plaintiffs failed to show a connection to racial discrimination. For example, they didn't prove that Natives or other minorities were unfairly targeted for prosecution, the judge said.

On appeal, the 9th Circuit disagreed. Three judges reinstated the case in July 2003, saying that the lower court was wrong to focus on racial discrimination in the justice system.

Instead, the unanimous panel said the courts have to look at the "totality of circumstances." Tee judges directed the lower court to reconsider the evidence based on this test.

"We recognize that this is a difficult issue and that it requires a searching inquiry into all factors that bear on plaintiffs’ claim," wrote Judge Richard A. Paez for the majority.

The state then asked the 9th Circuit to rehear the case by an en banc panel of 15 judges. In February of this year, the request was denied but seven of the judges dissented, calling it a "dark day for the Voting Rights Act" because Paez's opinion was upheld.

"Though the panel hints otherwise, plaintiffs never produced a shred of evidence of intentional discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system," the dissenting judges wrote.

Despite keeping the Washington case alive, the Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear a case from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that went in the opposite direction. An African-American man said New York's ban on imprisoned and paroled felons violated the Voting Right Act but the appeals court said Congress did not mention the subject.

American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington state have become more politically involved in recent years, citing the 2000 defeat of former Republican senator Slade Gorton, seen as a foe of sovereignty, as a sign of their power. The state is home to 29 federally recognized tribes and has a Native population of nearly 160,000.

Court Decision:
Farrakhan v. Locke (July 2003) | Farrakhan v. Locke (February 2004)

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Behind Bars: Native incarceration rates increase (July 13, 2001)

Relevant Links:
Native Vote 2004 - http://www.nativevote.org

Related Stories:
Yellow Bird: Native voters make a difference (11/08)
Jodi Rave Lee: Protecting rights of Native voters (11/04)
Vote: Your life depends on it (11/01)
Idaho tribes report increase in voter registration (10/28)
Making every vote count in Indian Country (10/25)
Navajo council makes second endorsement in same race (10/21)
State bars second absentee vote on reservation (10/21)
Chairman: Thune 'not very productive' on Indians (10/21)
Alaska Native vote called crucial in Senate race (10/21)
Indian County support grows for Kerry campaign (10/20)
Indian Eddie: Man fought for Native right to vote (10/19)
Republicans register more voters in New Mexico (10/19)
Lummi Nation hopes to increase voter turnout (10/18)
Winona LaDuke explains Kerry endorsement (10/18)
Pat Robertson claims Indians 'not totally literate' (10/18)
Minnesota targeted in Native Vote 2004 campaign (10/14)
10,000 new Indian voters registered in New Mexico (10/11)
Some Native voters don't care for Kerry or Bush (10/11)
Indian vote in South Dakota still a hot item (10/11)
IHS barred non-partisan voter registration drive (10/6)
County won't allow Indians to use tribal ID to register (10/06)
Pollster says Indian vote is critical in South Dakota (10/01)
Panel to discuss voting issues on Navajo Nation (09/17)
Navajo Nation vote seen as key in upcoming election (9/13)
Native Vote 2004 to monitor voting in several states (09/13)
Native vote campaign targets Indians in Minnesota (9/8)

Copyright © 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
BIA adopts new policy regarding federal recognition process (6/30)
Supreme Court agrees to resolve another Indian law dispute (6/30)
Patrick Murphy: Star Trek's William Shatner visits Navajoland (6/30)
Yvette Roubideaux: Making progress at Indian Health Service (6/30)
Native Sun News: Wambli Ska group shares culture with youth (6/30)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux leader pushes zeolite mine (6/30)
Native Sun News: BLM to update plan for land near Bear Butte (6/30)
Alex Jacobs: Fake Indians damage the real Indian community (6/30)
Sarah Sunshine Manning: Even toys carry harmful messages (6/30)
Ponca Tribe sends twelve youth to White House conference (6/30)
Lobbyists met at White House to discuss federal recognition (6/30)
Alaska Native man finally out on parole in 1997 homicide case (6/30)
Gyasi Ross gets nod for 'Marlon Brando' single off new release (6/30)
Washington governor supports repatriation of Kennewick Man (6/30)
Morongo Band interested in acquiring Colt gun manufacturer (6/30)
Gila River Indian Community files suit to protect sacred place (6/30)
Lac Du Flambeau Band man sentenced for abusing young girls (6/30)
Sault Tribe protected by sovereign immunity in casino dispute (6/30)
Pojoaque Pueblo at critical juncture with Class III gaming deal (6/30)
BIA releases scoping report for Coquille Tribe's Class II facility (6/30)
Local leaders talk Tohono O'odham Nation casino controversy (6/30)
Editorial: Extend Class III casino compact with Seminole Tribe (6/30)
Rep. McCollum vows support for Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (6/29)
BIA issues long-awaited update to federal recognition process (6/29)
Native Sun News: Tribal youth share traditions and technology (6/29)
Lakota Country Times: Treaty council slams mine at Pine Ridge (6/29)
Mark Trahant: Action plan needed for health in Indian Country (6/29)
Mary Annette Pember: Sharing stories from boarding schools (6/29)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Let Native people speak our own voices (6/29)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Race frauds are not new in Indian Country (6/29)
Bryan Terry: Honor Sequoyah with statue at Tennessee capitol (6/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indian law and policy based on domination (6/29)
National Congress of American Indians gathers in Minnesota (6/29)
Indian farmers rally over $380M in unspent Keepseagle funds (6/29)
Bill John Baker wins re-election as leader of Cherokee Nation (6/29)
Self-described Cherokee artist charged for misrepresentation (6/29)
Jemez Pueblo gets another shot in aboriginal territory dispute (6/29)
Alaska's largest tribe boycotts FedEx over ties to racist mascot (6/29)
Woman sentenced to prison for biting BIA officer in North Dakota (6/29)
Crow Creek Sioux man sentenced for assaults in domestic cases (6/29)
Spokane Tribe partners with Hard Rock for off-reservation casino (6/29)
Pechanga Band comes in first in USA Today's best casino survey (6/29)
Eastern Shoshone Tribe secures grant to update casino security (6/29)
Connecticut tribes welcome delay in commercial casino project (6/29)
Supreme Court considers petition in contract support cost case (6/26)
Congress clears bill to help Miami Nation with outdated charter (6/26)
Senate passes measure to transfer land to Native health group (6/26)
Senate appropriations bill shields tribes from BLM fracking rule (6/26)
Native Sun News: Project brings economic hope to Pine Ridge (6/26)
Lakota Country Times: Few answers about mine on Pine Ridge (6/26)
Michael Connor: Making informed decisions for land buy-back (6/26)
Land buy-back hits milestone with over $500M in purchases (6/26)
Sherman Alexie to release 'Thunder Boy' picture book in 2016 (6/26)
University to cover murals that depict lynching of Indian man (6/26)
North Dakota tribal group asserts authority over development (6/26)
Editorial: County stonewalling Chumash Tribe on development (6/26)
Little Traverse Bay Bands to spend $2.5M on new gaming site (6/26)
Seneca Nation honors boxing great Sully Huff at casino match (6/26)
Column: Chemehuevi Tribe won't seek off-reservation casino (6/26)
Lawmakers promise to help tribes bring a halt to youth suicide (6/25)
Native Sun News: County resists name change for sacred peak (6/25)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud Sioux Tribe hosts youth camp (6/25)
Delphine Red Shirt: Generous stranger returns land to Lakota (6/25)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.