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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court rules on whether misdemeanant may be disenfranchised during period of imprisonment

In David R. Snyder v. J. Bradley King and Trent Deckard, in their Official Capacities as Co-Directors of the Indiana Election Division; and Linda Silcott and Pam Brunette, et al., a 30-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Article II, § 8, of the Indiana Constitution authorizes the General Assembly to disenfranchise “any person convicted of an infamous crime.” David Snyder contends that because misdemeanor battery is not an “infamous crime,” his constitutional rights were violated when his voter registration was canceled after he was convicted and incarcerated for that crime. We agree that the crime in this case was not an “infamous crime” but also hold that the General Assembly has separate constitutional authority to cancel the registration of any person incarcerated following conviction, for the duration of incarceration.
This opinion is in answer to a certified question from the SD Indiana. See earlier ILB entries:
Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court accepts certifed question on election issue

In a 2-page order filed Feb. 21, 2011 and posted online today, captioned David R. Snyder v. J. Bradley King, et al, CJ Shepard writes that the Court has accepted a question of Indiana state law certified to it by...

Posted in The Indiana Law Blog on February 24, 2011 02:23 PM

Ind. Law - Suit filed in federal court challenges Indiana's disfranchisement of qualified voters who have been incarcerated by reason of a misdemeanor conviction

Updating the ILB entry from August 16th, which included copies of the10-page complaint and Exhibit A, the "Notice of Disfranchisement," Jeff Parrott of the South Bend Tribune has a good story today headed "Suit challenges jailed voter ban: Former Roseland...

Posted in The Indiana Law Blog on August 19, 2010 09:21 AM

Ind. Law - Suit filed in federal court challenges Indiana's disfranchisement of qualified voters who have been incarcerated by reason of a misdemeanor conviction

Here is a great NY Times graphic from March 27, 2004, showing the numbers of states that prohibit felons from voting: while in prison; while on parole; while on probation; after sentence is completed, for certain types of felons; after...

Posted in The Indiana Law Blog on August 16, 2010 02:24 PM

See also:
Ind. Law - More on: "Should those jailed for minor crimes have voting rights?"

Following up on its long story last Thursday on the oral argument that day in the case of David Snyder v. J. Bradley King, the Indianapolis Star has this editorial today headed "Misdemeanors miss the mark." A sample:Indiana is one...

Posted in The Indiana Law Blog on April 25, 2011 08:48 AM

Ind. Law - "Should those jailed for minor crimes have voting rights?"

For background, see this Feb. 24, 2011 ILB entry, which includes links to earlier ILB entries on states that prohibit felons from voting -- Indiana's prohibition applies to all incarcerated persons, whether imprisoned for a felony, or a misdemeanor. The...

Posted in The Indiana Law Blog on April 21, 2011 12:59 PM

More from today's opinion:
The essential question remains: Does the General Assembly have power under our Constitution to disenfranchise a person convicted of a crime and sentenced to an executed term of incarceration, for the duration of incarceration? [p. 24] * * *

In sum, the General Assembly may exercise its police power to deprive all convicted prisoners of the right to vote for the duration of their incarceration. A convicted prisoner is different from a pretrial detainee, who has yet to have his or her day in court. The loss of political and civil rights upon conviction and imprisonment is simply a collateral consequence thereof. * * *

We hold that the Indiana General Assembly has authority under its general police power to disenfranchise persons incarcerated upon conviction of a crime, so long as the disenfran-chisement lasts only for the duration of incarceration. That the statute cites the Infamous Crimes Clause as the basis for its enactment, instead of the general police power, does not render it invalid. This language in no way affects the purpose or effect of the statute, and we will not invali-date an otherwise constitutional statute merely because it includes an unnecessary statement of authority. [p. 26] * * *

Although we have accepted and answered the certified question in this case, we have not done so without hesitation. While there are benefits to the certified question – namely, ensuring uniform interpretation and application of Indiana law – there are significant pitfalls. See generally Randall T. Shepard, Is Making State Constitutional Law Through Certified Questions a Good Idea or a Bad Idea?, 38 Val. U. L. Rev. 327, 336-51 (2004) (discussing the advantages and dis-advantages of certified questions concerning state constitutional law). Future litigants should bear this in mind when deciding whether to proceed in state court or in federal court, and they should consider any procedural mechanisms that may be available for litigating a state constitutional law claim in state court while a federal claim is pending in federal court.

Conclusion. We hold that the Indiana Constitution was not violated when, upon being convicted of Class A misdemeanor battery and sentenced to an executed term of incarceration, David Snyder was disenfranchised but only for the duration of his incarceration.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 15, 2011 11:31 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions