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Federal Appeals Court Declines to Restore Voting Rights for Mississippi

For Now, Countless Mississippians Still Stuck in Discriminatory System Designed to Deny a Voice to the Black Community

NEW ORLEANS – On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to restore voting rights for tens of thousands of returning citizens in its ruling in Harness vs. Watson. Plaintiffs in Harness asserted a race-based equal protection challenge to the state constitutional provision removing voting rights for individuals with certain felony convictions. Harness was brought by the Mississippi Center for Justice and cooperating law firms.

However, in ruling for the State defendants, the Court in Harness limited its decision to the claims in that case. It did not address the different challenges to Mississippi’s disenfranchisement and re-enfranchisement system raised in Hopkins vs. Hosemann, which was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Hopkins vs. Hosemann remains pending before the Fifth Circuit. 

Full text of the decision in Harness can be found HERE

Ahmed Soussi voting rights staff attorney with the SPLC:

“It is disappointing that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Roy Harness and the tens of thousands of people with previous felony convictions in Mississippi who are still blocked from exercising their freedom to vote. However, we are eager and hopeful to continue challenging Mississippi’s cruel practice of stripping voting rights through our pending case, Hopkins vs. Hosemann, and create a pathway for those citizens to have their rights restored.

“As of now, countless Mississippians will still be stuck in a discriminatory system that was designed to deny a voice to the Black community. However, we must continue striving for full voting rights to be restored to all Mississippians. We believe that the right to vote is the most fundamental freedom in a democracy, and that no one should be deprived of that right.”