indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
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:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Agency weighs uranium mine near sacred site (9/30)
Jim Abourezk: South Dakota tribes can put Rick Weiland in office (9/30)
Cherokee chief participated in live pigeon shoot for Sen. Inhofe (9/30)
Navajo vice president returns home after near fatal spider bite (9/30)
North Dakota tribe sees big problems as energy industry grows (9/30)
Andre Cramblit: Another year brings challenges for our people (9/30)
Jack Duran: State's 'shocking' attack on Big Lagoon Rancheria (9/30)
Navajo Nation Council to select a new leader after resignation (9/30)
Editorial: Long delayed trust fund settlement for Navajo Nation (9/30)
Keepseagle plaintiffs oppose use of $380M to create foundation (9/30)
Opinion: Working with New Mexico tribes to protect sacred sites (9/30)
Pueblo man chosen as chair of VA minority advisory committee (9/30)
Woman sues over fall at Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe business (9/30)
Seminole Tribe makes another attempt to join banking business (9/30)
Mohegan Tribe purchases more wood pellet production facilities (9/30)
Ponca Tribe takes down old headquarters and readies new home (9/30)
Native Mob gang leader sentenced to 43 years in federal prison (9/30)
Three indicted for murder of man from Northern Arapaho Tribe (9/30)
Rivals funded DC trips to oppose Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/30)
American Gaming Association includes tribes in economic report (9/30)
Editorial: Vote yes to support North Fork Rancheria gaming deal (9/30)
Editorial: Florida shouldn't take a gamble with casino expansion (9/30)
Tim Giago: All Indian people ask is for America to honor treaties (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tribes take on IRS and win battle over taxation (9/29)
Mark Trahant: Indian vote could bring a surprise in South Dakota (9/29)
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act signed into law by Obama (9/29)
Obama signs law for settlement with Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (9/29)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: Transforming the spirit of suicide (9/29)
Migizi Pensoneau: Behind the scenes at a Washington NFL game (9/29)
Donna Ennis: Ancestor starting asking about trust fund in 1900s (9/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indigenous conference yields power to states (9/29)
Kyle Mays: Rejecting narrowminded views of indigenous studies (9/29)
Brian Pierson: Tribal preference ruling strengthens sovereignty (9/29)
Thousands missing out on share of Cobell settlement payments (9/29)
Navajo presidential candidate in doubt over fluency in language (9/29)
Oneida Nation repeats history with women in top leadership jobs (9/29)
Al Jazeera: Tribes working together to restore bison to their land (9/29)
Indian Time: Oklahoma Indian museum expected to be big draw (9/29)
Column: Washington team should be worried about FCC petition (9/29)
Opinion: NMAI exhibit finally puts federal-tribal dealings to light (9/29)
Gun Lake Tribe hails new law that protects casino from litigation (9/29)
Former mayor remains hopeful on Los Coyotes Band casino bid (9/29)
Chumash Tribe awards $112M contract as part of casino project (9/29)
Documents show Seminole Tribe was close to new gaming deal (9/29)
Column: Taking a gamble in Louisiana - What's legal and illegal? (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tex Hall ousted in North Dakota tribal primary (9/26)
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.