Federal court hears felon voting rights case in Mississippi

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A federal appeals court will hear arguments on whether Mississippi laws that restrict the voting rights of certain felons are unconstitutional.

Six felons are pushing to have their voting rights restored.

The Mississippi Constitution says people convicted of 22 particular felonies can only get voting rights restored with two-thirds approval by the Legislature, or a gubernatorial pardon.

Jody Owens served as the Southern Poverty Law Center of Jackson’s Managing Attorney, and will be the next Hinds County District Attorney.

He said that everybody deserves a second chance and will make that a priority when he is D.A.

“When people have served their time, they deserve the opportunity to be functioning in society,” Owens said.

Paloma Wu, a senior supervising attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson explained that it’s only fair to give these people the right to vote.

“These are people who have completed their sentences — including probation and parole,” Wu said. “They work, they pay taxes, they raise families and they want a say!”

Six former felons are suing to overturn the law — including Dennis Hopkins. He spoke at the rally about his mission.

“We’re here to stand up and get our rights back because our voice needs to be heard,” Hopkins said. “Our vote needs to count. Don’t ask me to pay my taxes and not let my vote count.”

Jody Owens explained that this is not a matter of political allegiance, this is a matter of Mississippians moving forward, together.

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