More than 70,000 Louisiana residents on probation or parole for felony crimes will remain unable to vote, under a decision issued Monday by a reluctant Baton Rouge judge who said he disagreed with the prohibition in law but had to uphold it. State District Judge Tim Kelley called it unfair to keep thousands of people from voting if they’re working, paying taxes and following the law. But he said Louisiana’s constitution and a four-decades-old state law required him to continue denying the voting rights. “I don’t like this ruling. I don’t like it. It’s not fair,” Kelley said.
The lawsuit was filed by the group Voice of the Ex-Offender and eight convicted felons banned from voting. Lawyer Bill Quigley, representing the plaintiffs, said they will appeal. “We’re disappointed. We believe that the result, as the judge said, is unfair or illogical,” Quigley said.
Louisiana’s 1974 constitution allows suspension of voting rights for people who are “under an order of imprisonment” for a felony. A law passed two years later spelled out that people on probation or parole for a felony are included in that definition and prohibited from voting.
Quigley argued the constitutional provision wasn’t intended to include people on probation and parole and the statute went further than allowed. He said denying them the ability to vote violates a fundamental right. “Voting is our keystone right in a democracy,” Quigley said.