Two civil rights groups have joined forces to battle a 2017 trial court ruling that allows the State of Louisiana to deny voting rights to more than 70,000 of its residents. On June 13, The Advancement Project, a civil rights and racial justice program based in Washington D.C., announced their intention to file an appeal in the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the First Circuit on behalf of the New Orleans-based non-profit organization Voice of the Experienced (VOTE). The appeal challenges a March 2017 decision by 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley in which he, apparently somewhat reluctantly, upheld current laws that prohibit ex-felons on probation or parole from voting.
Louisiana’s 1974 Constitution allows suspension of voting rights for persons “interdicted and judicially declared mentally incompetent” or “under order of imprisonment” for a felony. In 1976, legislature enacted the Louisiana Election Code which defined those under “order of imprisonment” as including parolees. In 1977, an amendment expanded that definition to included persons “on probation” as well.
On July 1, 2016, VOTE and eight plaintiffs filed the case, VOTE v. Louisiana, which sought to restore the right to vote to ex-felons currently on parole or probation. VOTE v. Louisiana argued that while the intention of the 1974 Louisiana Constitution was to prohibit incarcerated people from voting, it was not intended to prevent those on probation or parole from doing so.