Appeals court revisits allowing convicted felons to vote in Mississippi

September 29, 2023

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday said it’s reconsidering an earlier decision to allow people convicted of some felonies to vote in Mississippi.

In what would be a potential reversal of a significant expansion of voting rights, the 5th Circuit’s filing said that a majority of its 16 active judges would take a new look at its own ruling from last month.

On August 4, a panel of 5th Circuit had ruled 2-1 that Mississippi is violating the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment by permanently stripping voting rights from people convicted of certain felonies including forgery, larceny and bigamy.

State Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) led the call for the review. Granting the review means the August decision is vacated.

The 5th Circuit, which has grown increasingly conservative in recent years, in 2022 had declined in a separate lawsuit to overturn Mississippi’s felony disenfranchise provisions. 

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider that case, which was based on arguments about equal protection, allowing the 2022 appeals court ruling to stand.

Different arguments were raised in the more recent lawsuit, based on an assertion that Mississippi is imposing cruel and unusual punishment with a lifetime ban on voting on the convicted felons in question.

If the August ruling had been allowed to stand, tens of thousands of people who’ve served their time could have potentially regained the right to vote ahead of the November 7 general election for governor and other state-level positions in Mississippi.

PHOTO: 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

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