A federal appeals court last week overturned Washington state's ban on voting by convicted felons, citing evidence that the state's legal system is "racially discriminatory." Outraged opponents promise to appeal the decision—by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco—to the Supreme Court. If the ruling survives, it could force other states to let prisoners and parolees vote if their judicial systems are found to unfairly target African-Americans and other minorities. Every state but Maine and Vermont has some form of law against voting by felons. Should criminals have the right to vote?
Inmates threw away their right to vote: Barring prisoners from voting isn't racism, says Roger Clegg in National Review. It’s an acknowledgement that there are "certain minimum, objective standards" required of the people with whom we entrust "the serious enterprise of self-government." Children, non-citizens, and the institutionalized mentally ill can't vote. So there's nothing wrong with telling people who can't be bothered to obey the law that they won't "be allowed to make the law for everyone else."
"Bad ninth court decision yesterday on felon voting"
The inmate situation is a special case: What opponents of the ruling fail to understand, says Raina Kelley at Newsweek, is that Washington state "unfairly throws so many people of color in prison that their voting power is diluted." The evidence supporting the decision—which shows more than half of the racial disproportion in jails "cannot be explained by higher levels of criminal involvement"—is damning. This decision "strikes a blow for racial equality," even if none of the pundits want to see it that way.
"Federal appeals court strikes a blow for racial equality, even if no one wants to use the R-word"
This ruling is offensive—to minorities: "Different races have different propensities toward crime," says Dafydd Ab Hugh in Hot Air. It's not genetic—some people just grow up in surroundings where criminal behavior is more common. But the judges, by saying that yanking felons' voting rights discriminates against all minorities, are equating law-abiding African-Americans and Hispanics with crooks. Now that's offensive.
"Voting rights for felons: 'race neutral' = race biased"