Mississippi ex-felons oppose merger of 2 voting rights cases

Some former convicts who want to regain voting rights in Mississippi say their lawsuit should stand on its own and not be merged with a similar case.

Posted: Apr 23, 2018 6:50 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some former convicts who want to regain voting rights in Mississippi say their lawsuit should stand on its own and not be merged with a similar case.

Two federal lawsuits are challenging Mississippi's system for restoring suffrage to people convicted of certain felonies. One was filed in September by the Mississippi Center for Justice and other attorneys, representing some former convicts. The other was filed in March by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other attorneys, with a different set of plaintiffs who had lost voting rights because of felony convictions.

The state's top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, filed papers April 5 requesting consolidation of the two cases, which he said are similar. They are assigned to different judges.

Plaintiffs in the second case said in papers filed Thursday that the lawsuits should remain separate because they make different arguments about how Mississippi violates people's federal constitutional rights.

The Mississippi Constitution strips voting rights from people convicted of 10 felonies, including murder, forgery and bigamy. The attorney general later expanded that list to 22, adding crimes that included including timber larceny and carjacking.

To regain voting rights, a former convict must get permission from the governor and two-thirds of the Legislature.

Only 14 people have managed this from 2013 through 2017, and four more did during the 2018 legislative session.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is now in his seventh year in office, and has let suffrage restoration bills become law without his signature. This year, he let four become law without signing them and vetoed the fifth. In a brief veto message April 13, he said restoring voting rights depends on the support of law enforcement "and the person's ability to show responsibility and honesty after conviction."

Between 1994 and 2017, about 47,000 people in Mississippi were convicted of disenfranchising crimes, and about 60 percent of them have completed their sentences but have not regained their voting rights, said Jonathan K. Youngwood, a New York-based attorney in the March lawsuit. Some are still serving time.

African-Americans make up about 38 percent of Mississippi's population and 36.5 percent of the state's registered voters. Youngwood said 59 percent to 60 percent of people convicted of disenfranchising crimes in the state are black.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15229

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds99925
Lauderdale73561
Madison72023
Scott65012
Neshoba63038
Jones59825
Forrest55338
DeSoto5337
Rankin4217
Leake42112
Holmes39728
Copiah3104
Jackson30513
Attala29216
Yazoo2734
Newton2714
Leflore25831
Harrison2577
Lincoln25628
Monroe25525
Lamar2355
Oktibbeha23512
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Pike20211
Adams19615
Noxubee1856
Wayne1771
Warren1719
Washington1687
Covington1652
Bolivar16011
Jasper1574
Smith15011
Lee1496
Kemper14411
Clarke14318
Chickasaw13312
Lafayette1314
Coahoma1214
Carroll11711
Marion1159
Clay1124
Winston1121
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Yalobusha905
Hancock9011
Tate891
Grenada893
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Union835
Marshall833
Montgomery831
Sunflower813
Jefferson Davis772
Tippah7311
Panola703
Webster691
Calhoun644
Humphreys607
Amite601
Walthall550
Tunica543
Prentiss523
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Tishomingo320
Pontotoc323
Stone300
Franklin282
Tallahatchie271
Quitman260
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene121
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17359

Reported Deaths: 618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2191115
Jefferson1780102
Montgomery163238
Tuscaloosa73814
Marshall6879
Franklin5457
Lee54033
Shelby50319
Tallapoosa42364
Butler40217
Chambers35325
Walker3442
Elmore3398
Madison3274
Baldwin2839
Dallas2603
Morgan2511
Etowah24811
DeKalb2433
Lowndes23812
Coffee2291
Sumter2206
Autauga2164
Houston2094
Bullock2034
Pike1980
Colbert1782
Russell1670
Marengo1636
Lauderdale1612
Hale1598
Calhoun1543
Choctaw1518
Barbour1501
Wilcox1447
Clarke1422
Cullman1260
Randolph1257
Marion12111
St. Clair1181
Pickens1114
Dale1100
Talladega1093
Chilton1001
Limestone940
Greene944
Winston880
Covington771
Jackson772
Crenshaw763
Macon754
Henry742
Bibb721
Washington686
Blount611
Escambia573
Lawrence480
Geneva400
Conecuh391
Coosa381
Monroe372
Perry370
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar230
Fayette150
Cleburne141
Unassigned00
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