BATON ROUGE -- After 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley decided to keep in place a 1976 law that prohibits felons on parole and probation from voting, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) Executive Director Bruce Reilly voiced that the organization is 'disappointed in the law.'
"We see that this lawsuit would continue all the way to the state Supreme Court regardless whether we won or lost at this stage," Reilly told the Louisiana Record. "The good news is, clearly, the judge, on a moral sense and on a[n] ethical and a just sense, agreed with us. He just sort of disagreed with how the law was created."
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler told the Louisiana Record and the Associated Press that he was glad to see Judge Kelley rule the way he did.
Reilly said that the appeal process to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal could be a long process.
"So after the judge writes his official ruling, then, we have 60 days to file an appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals," Reilly said. "Basically, that process of going through the Court of Appeals, it's a little bit busier at the Court of Appeals, who handles all the state cases, all the Baton Rouge cases. And so that may take up to a year, I think, to get the briefs in. ... You can only really argue in terms of what was on the record below, right? So it's not a very complicated appeal, I don't think."
At that point, Reilly said, the case could be given back to Judge Kelley with some direction, which is what Reilly said those arguing for the felons fighting for voting rights would hope for.
"If we lose at that stage, and then, we go to the state Supreme Court," Reilly said. "And I guess the appellate court would have the power to just override the judge and say he was clearly wrong and make a ruling. But that's for the judge involved to decide."
Reilly hopes to see Judge Kelley's decision reversed.
"Well, that would be phenomenal," Reilly said. "That would show that, clearly, the judiciary and the people of our state are moving towards a place where everyone has voting rights, where it's declared a right and it could be exercised by all people."
Reilly said that 'it's often overlooked that a lot of the people who were denied the right to vote, the majority, actually, are people who were not in prison.'
"These are people who went to court, probably most got bail on a charge and then were sentenced to a period of probation," Reilly said. "And no judge ever sentenced somebody to lose their voting rights, or, let's say, to lose their job or lose their housing or anything else that can happen by getting a conviction. ... And so, to categorize everybody in this group as if you've all committed serious felonies and served serious time would be totally erroneous."