Richardson v. Ramirez

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Richardson v. Ramirez
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 15, 1974
Decided June 24, 1974
Full case name Viola N. Richardson v. Abran Ramirez et al.
Citations 418 U.S. 24 (more)
94 S. Ct. 2655, 41 L. Ed. 2d 551
Prior history Ramirez v. Brown, 9 Cal.3d 199 (1973). Appeal from the Supreme Court of California
Subsequent history Ramirez v. Brown, 12 Cal. 3d 912 (Cal. 1974)
Convicted felons may be constitutionally disenfranchised.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell
Dissent Marshall, joined by Brennan, Douglas
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974), held that convicted felons could be barred from voting without violating the Fourteenth Amendment.


Plaintiffs, who had been convicted of felonies and had completed their sentences, brought a class action against California’s Secretary of State and election officials, challenging a state constitutional provision and statutes that permanently disenfranchised anyone convicted of an “infamous crime,” unless the right to vote was restored by court order or executive pardon.

Typically in voting rights cases, states must show that the voting restriction is necessary to a “compelling state interest,” and is the least restrictive means of achieving the state’s objective. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that the state had no compelling interest to justify denying them the right to vote. The California Supreme Court agreed that the law was unconstitutional. On appeal, however, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a state does not have to prove that its felony disenfranchisement laws serve a compelling state interest.


The Court pointed to Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which exempted felony disenfranchisement laws from the heightened scrutiny given to other restrictions on the right to vote. The Court said that Section 2, which reduces a state’s representation in Congress if the state has denied the right to vote for any reason “except for participation in rebellion, or other crime,” distinguishes felony disenfranchisement from other forms of voting restrictions, which must be narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests in order to be constitutional. [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Issacharoff, Samuel (2007). The Law of Democracy. Foundation Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-58778-460-6. 

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