Suing for the right to vote

Read the class-action complaint from the Campaign Legal Center, challenging Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement:

“2. As detailed below, Section 177(b) of the Alabama Constitution, which disenfranchises individuals with convictions of felonies “involving moral turpitude,” is a direct successor to the Alabama’s 1901 racially discriminatory constitutional disenfranchisement provision. It is inextricably tied to Alabama’s long history of denying blacks citizens voting rights and equal access to the polls, using the criminal justice system to achieve those goals.

3. Soon after the Civil War and the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, Alabama began to use criminal disenfranchisement as a tool, hand-in-hand with convict leasing and other means, to deny blacks the right to vote and maintain white supremacy. Indeed, the explicit purpose of the 1901 Alabama Constitution was to formally “establish white supremacy.” The felon disenfranchisement system in Alabama continues to serve that purpose.

4. In 1985, the Supreme Court held that the drafters of the disenfranchisement provision specifically selected the vague and arbitrary “moral turpitude” standard in order to disenfranchise blacks. Nonetheless, in 1996, Alabama re-inserted that same standard into its felon disenfranchisement law, which remains to this day.

5. The Alabama Legislature has never determined what felonies “involve moral turpitude.” Yet the State of Alabama requires citizens to declare under penalty of perjury that they have not been convicted of a “disqualifying crime” in order to register to vote, stifling the registration of qualified voters.

6. The lack of any definition and the vagueness of this term has left the fundamental right to vote of hundreds of thousands of voters to ad hoc and arbitrary determinations by individual county registrars across the state.

7. The result is the disenfranchisement of approximately 7% of Alabama’s total voting-age population and 15% of Alabama’s black voting-age population.”

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