A New Jersey law that denies the right to vote for people on probation or parole does not unconsitutionally discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics, says a state appeals court ruling reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. New Jerseyans forfeit their right to vote when convicted of a felony, but may reregister to vote after completing their sentences as well as terms of probation or parole. A three-judge appellate panel noted that if the legislature had prohibited only African-Americans or Hispanics from voting while on parole or probation, the law would violate the doctrine of equal protection under the state constitution.
The state constitution “authorizes the Legislature to disenfranchise entirely people ‘convicted of such crimes as it may designate,'” the court said. The lawsuit contended that the voting ban violates equal protection guarantees under the state Constitution because it has a “grossly disparate impact” on minorities.” There are 61,947 adults on probation, another 1,263 under so-called intensive supervision, and 13,987 on parole. The lawsuit maintains minories make up 52 percent of those on probation and 75 percent of parolees.