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Can Mississippi permanently strip felons of voting rights? 19 federal judges will hear the case

Mississippi Voting Rights
ASSOCIATED PRESS

More than a dozen federal appellate judges are scheduled to hear arguments on whether Mississippi can continue to permanently strip voting rights from people convicted of certain felonies

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nineteen federal appellate judges are scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on whether Mississippi can continue to permanently strip voting rights from people convicted of certain felonies, including nonviolent crimes for which they have served a complete sentence.

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The outcome of the case will likely determine whether tens of thousands of people win back the right to vote. An immediate decision is not expected.

Criminal justice advocates won a major victory last August when a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban violates the Constitution's prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment. But the full 17-member circuit court vacated that ruling weeks later and scheduled Tuesday's hearing.

Attorneys for the state argue that the voting ban is a “nonpunitive voting regulation" and that, even if it did constitute punishment, it isn't cruel and unusual.