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Richardson v. Ramirez

Supreme Court of the United States

January 15, 1974, Argued ; June 24, 1974, Decided

No. 72-1589


 [*26]  [***555]  [**2658]    MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The three individual respondents in this case were convicted of felonies and have completed the service of their respective sentences and paroles. They filed a petition for a writ of mandate in the Supreme Court of California to compel California county election officials to register them as voters. 2 They  [***556]  claimed, on behalf of  [*27]  themselves and others similarly situated, that application to them of the provisions of the California Constitution and implementing statutes which disenfranchised persons convicted of an "infamous crime" denied them the right to equal protection of the laws under the Federal Constitution. The Supreme Court of California held that "as applied to all ex-felons whose terms of incarceration and parole have expired, the provisions of article II and article XX, section 11, of the California Constitution denying the right of suffrage to persons convicted of crime, together with the several sections of [****7]  the Elections Code implementing that disqualification . . . , violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Ramirez v. Brown, 9 Cal. 3d 199, 216-217, 507 P. 2d 1345, 1357 (1973). We granted certiorari, 414 U.S. 816 (1973).

Article XX, § 11, of the California [****8]  Constitution has provided since its adoption in 1879 that "[laws] shall be made" to exclude from voting persons convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, malfeasance in office, "or other high crimes." At the time respondents were refused registration, former Art. II, § 1, of the California Constitution provided in part that "no alien ineligible to citizenship, no idiot, no insane person, no person convicted of any infamous crime, no person hereafter convicted of the embezzlement or misappropriation of public money, and no person who shall not be able to read the Constitution in the English language and write his or her name, shall ever exercise the privileges of an elector  [*28]  in this State." 3 [****10]  Sections 310 and 321 of the California Elections Code provide that an affidavit of registration shall show whether the affiant has been convicted of "a felony which disqualifies [him] from voting." 4 Sections 383, 389, and 390 direct the county clerk to cancel the registration of all voters who have been convicted of "any infamous crime or of the embezzlement or misappropriation of any public money." 5 [****11]  Sections  [**2659]  14240 and  [*29]  14246  [***557]  permit a voter's [****9]  qualifications to be challenged on the ground that he has been convicted of "a felony" or of "the embezzlement or misappropriation of public money." 6 California provides by statute for restoration of the right to vote to persons convicted of crime either  [*30]  by court order after the completion of probation, 7 [****12]  or, if a prison term was served, by executive pardon after completion of rehabilitation proceedings. 8 [****13]  California also provides  [***558]  a  [**2660]  procedure by which a person refused  [*31]  registration may obtain judicial review of his disqualification. 9

Each of the individual respondents was convicted of one or more felonies, and served some time in jail or prison followed by a successfully terminated parole. Respondent Ramirez was convicted in Texas; respondents Lee and Gill were convicted in California. When Ramirez applied to register to vote in San Luis Obispo County, the County Clerk refused to allow him to register. The Monterey County Clerk refused registration to respondent Lee, and the Stanislaus County Registrar of  [*32]  Voters (hereafter also included in references to clerks) refused registration to respondent [****14]  Gill. All three respondents were refused registration because of their felony convictions. 10

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418 U.S. 24 *; 94 S. Ct. 2655 **; 41 L. Ed. 2d 551 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 84 ****; 72 Ohio Op. 2d 232



Disposition:  9 Cal. 3d 199, 507 P. 2d 1345, reversed and remanded.


disenfranchisement, ex-felons, election, named plaintiff, moot, voters, voting, provisions, county clerk, franchise, register, registration, cases, felony, state court, class action, felons, convicted, unnamed, election official, right to vote, writ of mandate, class member, evading, parole, residency requirement, residents, plaintiffs', rebellion, parties

Criminal Law & Procedure, Theft & Related Offenses, Forgery, General Overview, Governments, Local Governments, Elections, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Restoration of Rights, Voting, Voting Rights, Language Discrimination, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Perjury, Embezzlement, Elements, Penalties, Postconviction Proceedings, Clemency, State & Territorial Governments, Immigration Law, Enforcement of Immigration Laws, Criminal Offenses, Registration Offenses, Employees & Officials, Evidence, Authentication, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Case & Controversy Requirements, Adverse Legal Interests, Judgments, Declaratory Judgments, State Declaratory Judgments, Writs, Common Law Writs, Mandamus, Mootness, Evading Review Exception, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Conduct Capable of Repetition, Public Interest Exception, The Judiciary, Jurisdiction on Certiorari, Considerations Governing Review, State Court Decisions, Legislatures, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Jurisdiction, Federal Declaratory Judgments, Appellate Review, Preclusion of Judgments, Full Faith & Credit, Qualifications for Federal Office, Native Americans, Civil Rights, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Elections, Terms & Voting, Gender & Sex Voting Restrictions, Voting Age, Federal Government, Taxation, Administrative Boards, Business & Corporate Law, Distributorships & Franchises, Franchise Relationships, Franchise Agreements