(CN) - The Mississippi Constitution doesn't allow convicted felons to vote in presidential elections, the 5th Circuit ruled, overturning an argument advanced by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU represented two convicted felons who were barred from voting in the 2008 presidential election.
The state Constitution disenfranchises felons, "except that he shall be qualified to vote for president and vice president of the United States if he meets the requirements established by Congress if he meets the requirements established by Congress ... and is otherwise a qualified elector."
The ACLU interpreted this phrase as creating an exception to the felon voting ban for presidential elections.
Mississippi's actions violated state law, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the National Voter Registration Act.
The district court ruled for the state officials, calling the ACLU's interpretation "legally incorrect."
The federal appellate panel in New Orleans agreed, saying the state Constitution clearly requires voters in presidential elections to both meet Congress' standards and be "otherwise a qualified elector."
"Despite appellants' protestations, there is no principled reason that the presidential election clause would grant only felons the right to vote in presidential elections while leaving the other qualifications ... intact," Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote.
The ACLU's "parsing" of the state Constitution "cannot stand against commonsense plain meaning," she concluded.