Louisiana’s Inequitable Felony Disenfranchisement Scheme Hurts Black Voters and Democracy

The open door of a polling place seen through a chain link fence
Photo by Casey Atkins/Campaign Legal Center

The right to vote is a basic American freedom—and when that freedom is abridged, our democracy suffers. This week, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) joined forces with local advocacy groups to fight back against barriers blocking the right to vote, filing a lawsuit challenging part of Louisiana’s felony disenfranchisement scheme.  

We can’t have an inclusive and accountable democracy when voters must jump through hoops just to exercise their fundamental freedom to vote. As it stands, Louisianans who are removed from the voter rolls because of a felony conviction must provide election officials with burdensome proof from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) to re-register to vote.  

This documentation requirement is unnecessary, since DPSC already provides that information directly to election officials. Additionally, people with past felony convictions who had not been previously registered to vote have no such paperwork requirement.   

Tens of thousands of Louisianans with past felony convictions whose voting rights have been restored could be denied registration because of this policy.  

The lawsuit, filed by CLC alongside Bill Quigley of Loyola University Law School on behalf of Voice of the Experienced, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and the League of Women Voters of Louisiana, asks the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana to remove this arbitrary state-imposed documentation requirement, alleging that it is unconstitutional and illegal under federal voting rights law.  

Due to racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, Black and brown voters are disproportionately impacted by felony disenfranchisement laws and – as is the case in Louisiana – continue to face challenges trying to vote, even after their rights have been restored.  

Louisiana's arbitrary and unnecessary requirement for formerly incarcerated people attempting to re-register to vote denies them a full and equal voice in the political process and perpetuates longstanding racial disparities in democratic participation. 

If our democracy is really intended to be by the people and for the people, we must work to ensure that every voter can make their voice heard.  

More information on the lawsuit can be found here.  

Adam is a Media Associate, Voting Rights and Redistricting at CLC.