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
Sovereignty and E-Commerce:  Innovating and Reshaping the  Borders of Indian Country - Arizona State University Third Annual Tribal Government E-Commerce CLE Conference
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:
Quinault Nation prepares for journey to Standing Rock encampment (12/2)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois prophecies warn of grave dangers (12/2)
Brandon Ecoffey: Media gets it wrong on Dakota Access frontlines (12/2)
Bronson Koenig: What I found during my journey to Standing Rock (12/2)
Timothy Egan: Fake cowboys cheered while the real Indians suffer (12/2)
Lakota Country Times: Laced marijuana finds its way to Pine Ridge (12/2)
Native Sun News Today: Owner of Wounded Knee site lowers price (12/2)
David Ganje: An opportunity for tribes to clean up their homelands (12/2)
Mary Annette Pember: Tribal member arrested for string of arsons (12/2)
Tiffany Midge: The women are here and we have a message for you (12/2)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls for safety as veterans head to camp (12/1)
North Dakota sheriff scrubs Facebook of incriminating information (12/1)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp considers role in Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Daniel Brown: Ho-Chunk Nation celebrates a new day in Wisconsin (12/1)
Lakota Country Times: #NoDAPL kitchen in need of more supplies (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe summons allies (12/1)
Vi Waln: Sacred fire burns at Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota (12/1)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Veterans at Standing Rock for the good fight (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Duane Big Crow relishes role in coaching (12/1)
Clara Caufield: Community at Northern Cheyenne stays connected (12/1)
Steven Newcomb: A message to the Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Alaska Native designer brings subsistence fashion to new audience (12/1)
Tohono O'odham Nation and state remain at odds in casino dispute (12/1)
United Keetoowah Band won't talk about plans for potential casino (12/1)
Wilton Rancheria continues to face mysterious opposition to casino (12/1)
Non-Indian firm set to open $1.3B casino outside of nation's capital (12/1)
Native youth remain hopeful as nation transitions to new president (11/30)
Sioux Nation to President Obama: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (11/30)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care at risk with Trump administration (11/30)
Lakota Country Times: Herbalist brings medicine to Standing Rock (11/30)
Dana Lone Hill: A big 'wopila' to all the #NoDAPL water protectors (11/30)
Kelly Hayes: My whole heart is with the #NoDAPL water protectors (11/30)
Large veterans group heads to #NoDAPL frontline in North Dakota (11/30)
Native Sun News Today: Northern Cheyenne college hosts summit (11/30)
James Giago Davies: Mixed-race Indians forced to choose identity (11/30)
Cronkite News: Navajo chef takes helm at NMAI in nation's capitol (11/30)
Billy Stratton: The soldiers who refused the Sand Creek Massacre (11/30)
Gabriel Ray: Scotts Valley Band working to re-establish homeland (11/30)
Steve Russell: Resisting apartheid and genocide in the Trump era (11/30)
Charges filed after two children found malnourished at Pine Ridge (11/30)
Four Alaska Natives dead amid state outbreak of strep bacteria (11/30)
Pokagon Band breaks ground on housing project on Indiana land (11/30)
Ancestral remains found in Washington are about 2300 years old (11/30)
Former casino worker took $23K from Northern Cheyenne Tribe (11/30)
Sheriff hit with lawsuit as governor moves in on #NoDAPL camp (11/29)
Dakota Access Pipeline almost finished except at Lake Oahe site (11/29)
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.