Louisiana requires people with past felony convictions who were previously registered to vote prior to their conviction to produce documentation proving they are eligible to have their voting rights restored. This requirement does not exist for those who were not registered to vote prior to their conviction. LWV of Louisiana, Voice of the Experienced, and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice filed a federal lawsuit, arguing this requirement violated the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act.
In 1895, after the overthrow of Reconstruction, to disenfranchise and suppress Black Louisianans, Louisiana’s government enacted a Constitution that permanently banned individuals convicted of any felony from voting. Subsequently, Louisiana's 1974 Constitution and enabling legislation reduced this disenfranchisement to all citizens currently incarcerated and persons placed on probation and parole after being sentenced to imprisonment.
In 2019, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 636, which allowed persons with felony convictions who had not been incarcerated for at least five years to register to vote. Later, in 2021, Act 127 removed Act 636’s requirement that applicants provide documentation from the Department of Corrections showing they had not been incarcerated for a felony in the last five years.
However, Louisiana continues to require people with past felony convictions whose voter registration was suspended after their felony conviction to submit documentation proving they satisfy Act 636’s requirements when re-registering to vote. This requirement does not apply to applicants who were not active voters at the time of their felony convictions.
The League of Women Voters of Louisiana (LWV of Louisiana), Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (Power Coalition), filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, arguing this documentation requirement violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The NVRA requires all covered states to ensure each eligible applicant is registered to vote if they submit a valid voter registration form. Under Section 6 of the NVRA, states are required to accept and use the prescribed federal mail voter registration form, which may only require information state election officials need to verify eligibility and administer voter registration and other election processes. The federal voter registration form does not require additional accompanying documentation. The NVRA also explicitly forbids states from imposing additional formal authentication or notarization requirements for using the federal form. LWV of Louisiana and its co-plaintiffs assert the state's documentation requirement for people with suspended voter registrations violates the NVRA by demanding superfluous information not needed to verify whether a voter is eligible. Parish registrars already have access to the necessary information, as the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections regularly sends lists of ineligible voters to the Louisiana Secretary of State and parish registrars.
LWV Louisiana and its co-plaintiffs also allege the documentation requirements at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by creating different requirements to register to vote between eligible people with felony convictions with and without suspended voter registrations. Both groups use the same voter registration forms, must meet the same eligibility requirements, and have the same objective of becoming registered voters, with only the documentation requirement for suspended voters distinguishing them. The plaintiffs asserted the documentation requirement had no rational basis and was not narrowly tailored to serve any potential state interest.
The League is represented by Campaign Legal Center and Professor William P. Quigley of the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
Note: Counties in Louisiana are called parishes.
LWV of Louisiana files lawsuit
LWV of Louisiana, VOTE, and the Power Coalition file a federal lawsuit, arguing Louisiana’s documentation requirements for people with felony convictions with suspended voter registrations seeking to register to vote violate the NVRA and the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
LWV of Louisiana files for preliminary injunction
Plaintiffs file a motion for a preliminary injunction forbidding Louisiana from requiring people with past felony convictions to provide documentation of their eligibility to restore their voting rights. The motion argues that obtaining the documentation burdens people with past felony convictions, hurts the plaintiffs’ ability to engage in voter engagement before the 2023 state elections, and potentially prevents people with past felony convictions from voting in those elections.