Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Muntaqim-Hayden Voting Rights Cases Dismissed

May 4, 2006, Disenfranchisement: News
"Court Dismisses Muntaqim-Hayden Voting Rights Cases"
 
Both felony disenfranchisement cases, Muntaqim v. Coombe and Hayden v. Pataki, consolidated in February 2005, were dismissed today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Muntaqim-Hayden challenged New York's disenfranchisement law that bars people with felony convictions from voting while they are in prison or on parole. Because Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately arrested and convicted of felonies, the plaintiffs charged that the law dilutes the voting power of Black and Latino communities, and in doing so, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because of its denial of the right to vote on account of race.
 
In the first of two decisions, the Second Circuit today dismissed Muntaqim v. Coombe arguing that because Muntaqim was a resident of California before his incarceration and was never eligible to vote nor did he ever vote in New York, he lacks standing and consequently, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The Court contends: "Because [Muntaqim's] inability to vote in New York arises from the fact that he was a resident of California, not because he was a convicted felon subject to the application of New York Election Law...he has suffered no 'invasion of legally protected interest.' ... [A] favorable decision of this Court on his claim that New York Election Law...violates the VRA would do nothing to enfranchise him."
 
The Second Circuit also dismissed Hayden v. Pataki concluding that "Congress did not intend the Voting Rights Act to cover such [felon disenfranchisement] provisions" and that such an application "would alter the constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government."
 
The decisions can be downloaded from the Decisions section of the Second Circuit's home page at www.ca2.uscourts.gov/.