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Federal Appeals Court Rules Washington State Felons Can Vote

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A federal appeals court has ruled that imprisoned felons should be allowed to vote in Washington state to ensure that racial minorities are protected under the Voting Rights Act.

Tuesday's 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2000 ruling of a district judge in Spokane. That judge had ruled that state law did not violate the act, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former prison inmate from Bellevue.

The two appellate judges ruled that disparities in the state's justice system "cannot be explained in race-neutral ways."

A spokeswoman says state Attorney General Rob McKenna is weighing the state's next step.