About This Case
This case challenges Louisiana’s requirement that some voters with felony convictions provide documentary proof of eligibility to register to vote, while other voters, even some who also have felony convictions, are not required to do so. Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Louisiana’s felony disenfranchisement scheme is a vestige of Jim Crow, borne from efforts to use the criminal legal system to suppress the Black vote. Until 2019, Louisiana had one of the highest voter disenfranchisement rates for individuals with felony convictions in the United States.
In 2019, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 636, which provided that certain individuals with felony convictions on probation or parole are allowed to register to vote. Act 636 opened the door to voting rights restoration for more than 30,000 Louisianans on either probation or parole and has allowed for the restoration of tens of thousands more since.
Still, Louisiana has struggled to implement access to the right to vote for individuals with felony convictions. Initially under Act 636, individuals had their voting rights restored only after they submitted documentation from the Department of Corrections to a local registrar’s office showing that they are eligible to register to vote.
This paperwork is not readily available to many affected citizens and the requirement prevented many Louisiana citizens from registering. Moreover, parishes inconsistently implemented the paperwork requirement and did not adequately advise individuals about how to obtain the necessary documentation.
In 2021, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 127 to remove the paperwork requirement for rights restoration, making it clear that individuals with felony convictions can register to vote regardless of whether they present proof of eligibility to the registrar.
However, the State continues to require documentary proof of eligibility from prospective voter registrants who were registered prior to their felony convictions and thus had their registrations “suspended” because of their conviction. The paperwork requirement for “suspended” voters continues the long history of erecting additional barriers to voting for individuals with felony convictions.
Louisiana’s paperwork requirement violates the NVRA, which prohibits states from requiring registrants to provide additional documentation beyond the voter registration form. The documentary proof of eligibility requirement also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the requirement arbitrarily treats “new” and “suspended” voters differently, despite the fact that such voters stand in the same shoes.
Moreover, Louisiana’s criminal and election agencies already maintain and share data regarding individuals’ felony convictions, making the additional documentation requirements unnecessary and inefficient.
Our democracy works best when all voters can participate. We’re fighting this policy of unequal treatment for certain voters impacted by the criminal legal system to ensure that all voters can access the ballot.