Thousands of Washington State felons should be able to vote even though they have yet to pay off court-ordered fines, ruled a Washington State trial judge, says the Seattle Times. “It is well recognized that there is simply no rational relationship between the ability to pay and the exercise of constitutional rights,” Judge Michael Spearman said in backing the challenge of three indigent felons. Spearman said the state law requiring payment of all court-ordered fines and fees before a felon can vote again violates the equal-protection clause in the U.S. and state constitutions. He said “discrimination on the basis of wealth and property has long been disfavored.”
State lawyers argued that the judge shouldn’t make a distinction between court-ordered payments and other parts of a felon’s sentence, such as jail time. “It’s rational for the Legislature to say we want you to complete everything, as opposed to start separating out sentence elements,” said deputy solicitor general Jeff Even. State officials haven’t decided whether to appeal. It was unclear how many people the ruling will affect. Based on past estimates, it could add tens of thousands of convicted felons to the voter rolls.