SPLC files federal lawsuit to restore voting rights of convicted - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

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SPLC files federal lawsuit to restore voting rights of convicted felons

Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT
Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT
Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT
Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT
Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit in federal court to restore the voting rights of residents convicted of felonies.

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case say the current state law violates the constitution's first, eighth and 14th amendments.

Former inmates say enough is enough.

"The State of Mississippi doesn't allow me to vote, but allows me to pay my taxes," said Dennis Hopkins, convicted 20 years ago of grand larceny.

The 43-year-old stood on the steps of the Secretary of State's office encouraging others in similar situations to join him in the fight to regain their right to vote.

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The Marshall County resident is one of six plaintiffs named in a class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the Secretary of State.

"I can pay my taxes, but I can't tell what I want my money spent on after I've paid them," said Hopkins. "Everything I owe them, everything they asked me to do I've done that." 

Anyone convicted of a felony is banned from voting for life. It affects an estimated 40,000 Mississippians.

"They deserve the right to vote and we can do something about that," said Southern Poverty Law Center managing attorney Jody Owens. "So today, because Mississippi's legislature has never moved on this issue in almost 130 years, we're gonna ask the federal courts to do what they can not do or they've chosen not to do".

"I believe I've paid my debt to society. My record's been expunged. I feel like I should have a second chance," said 47-year-old Wayne Kuhn of Hinds County. He was convicted of grand larceny more than 18 years ago.

"Before I die I would love to get my right to vote back, and my rights as a human being," said Byron Coleman of Hinds County, who was convicted of receiving stolen goods in 1997.

The 54-year-old suffered a stroke that has left him disabled.

Mississippi's Suffrage Bill restores voting rights, but requires a two thirds vote of both bodies of the legislature.

In the past five years, lawmakers have voted to allow 14 people to regain their right to vote.

The SPLC attorneys say the lifetime voting ban disproportionately affects African Americans while violating the constitution's laws prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, the right to political expression and The Equal Protection Clause.

Mississippi is one of four states with lifetime ban for all disenfranchising offenses.

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