A state judge in Baton Rouge is slated to rule Monday on the legality of a four-decades-old Louisiana law that bars felons on probation and parole from voting. There are roughly 71,000 such persons in the state. Attorneys for eight individuals and a group called Voice of the Ex-Offender challenged the constitutionality of the 1976 law in a case that’s being heard by District Court Tim Kelley. In recently filed written arguments, lawyers for the plaintiffs and for the state Attorney General’s and Secretary of State’s offices have given Kelley plenty to chew on as he mulls his decision.
Both sides have filed motions asking Kelley to rule in their favor. The case would go directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court if the judge strikes down the law.
The 1974 state Constitution says people “under an order of imprisonment” for the conviction of a felony cannot vote. The 1976 state law altered the definition of who can vote to exclude people on probation or parole. The change was never put to voters.
Voice of the Ex-Offender and the other individual plaintiffs contend the state law disenfranchises felons on probation or parole by denying them the fundamental right to vote.