By HOLBROOK MOHR
Associated Press Writer
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An attorney for the American Civil
Liberties Union says its unlikely that at least 146,000 convicted
felons in Mississippi will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 4
The ACLU concedes that Mississippi law prevents people convicted
of certain felonies from voting in most Mississippi and federal
elections. However, the ACLU claims in a federal lawsuit filed in
September, that there's an exception in the Mississippi
constitution that allows people with felony convictions to vote in
the presidential elections. The state says that's a
"These folks probably won't be allowed to vote in November
unless the district court issues a favorable ruling in the next
week - highly unlikely," said Nancy Abudu, a lawyer with the ACLU
Voting Rights Project.
Mississippians convicted of 21 types of crimes are prohibited
from voting, ranging from murder and rape to bribery and bigamy.
U.S. District Judge Tom Lee refused last month to issue a
preliminary injunction that would have forced Mississippi officials
to allow felons to vote for president.
Lee said the ACLU is "not likely to succeed on the merits of
their claims," but he did not dismiss the lawsuit itself. The ACLU
appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans,
which declined last week to issue a similar emergency injunction.
A motion filed by the secretary of state's office to dismiss the
lawsuit is pending.
Pam Weaver, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Delbert
Hosemann, said only that Lee had ruled against the injunction and,
"Therefore, disenfranchised felons will not be able to vote in the
2008 general election."
If convicted felons in Mississippi - a state that historically
votes Republican in presidential elections - were allowed to vote
this year it would likely benefit Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack
Obama, Abudu said.
Blacks in Mississippi are incarcerated at a higher rate than
whites "and it's no secret that African Americans strongly support
Obama," Abudu said.
"However, we have not adopted wholesale the argument that felon
re-enfranchisement efforts will only help Democrats," she said.
Abudu pointed out that some Republicans - Florida Gov. Charlie
Christ and Jack Kemp, a 1996 candidate for vice president and now
adviser to GOP presidential candidate John McCain - have supported
some efforts to help felons regain the right to vote.
Convicted felons in Mississippi can have their voting rights
restored by successfully petitioning the state Legislature to do
so, but Abudu has said that's "a really arduous task for anybody
to have to go through."
The Legislature restored voting rights to eight people during
its most recent session.
Another lawsuit filed by the ACLU in state court claims there
are 10 crimes in the Mississippi constitution that prohibit people
from voting, but notes that 21 are listed on the voter registration
Hoseman told The Associated Press last week that there are in
fact 11 disenfranchising crimes named in Mississippi statute, but
"the attorney general has expanded them to 21."
"There over 300 felonies in Mississippi," Hosemann said.
In the past, Hosemann has advocated adding more felonies to the
list of crimes that would prohibit people from voting, including
sexual predators, drug dealers and those convicted of kidnapping.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)