The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a legal challenge to the Massachusetts Constitution's prohibition against voting by convicted felons in prison.
The case, Paul Simmons, et al, v. William F. Galvin, was listed today as among the cases for which the Supreme Court had denied certiorari.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who was the defendant in a lawsuit challenging the changes made in 2000 to the state Constitution, said, "I agree with the court’s decision that voters have the right to disqualify incarcerated felons from voting.”
Massachusetts voters amended the Constitution to remove the right to vote from "persons who are incarcerated in a correctional facility due to a felony conviction.” The amendment was adopted by a margin of of 60.3 percent to 33.9 percent, Galvin said in a statement.
In 2001, several felons in state custody challenged the amendment, saying that it violated the federal Voting Rights Act because a disproportionate number of inmates are black or Hispanic; and because it created ex post facto, or retroactive, penalties, violating the US Constitution's ban on such penalties.
In 2009, the First US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both arguments, leading to the appeal to the Supreme Court.
The appeals court said, among other things, felon disenfranchisement had "historic legitimacy" and the authority of states to disenfranchise imprisoned felons was constitutionally and congressionally recognized.
Until the amendment was enacted, all prisoners were able to vote by absentee ballot, a practice that is rare among the states.
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