Simmons vs. Galvin challenges Massachusetts’ law which disenfranchises people with felony convictions from voting while they are incarcerated. The plaintiffs assert that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it constitutes a denial of the vote on account of race given that the percentage of imprisoned persons with felony convictions who are Latino or African American is higher than the percentages of those groups in the state population.
The State sought a judgment from a federal District Court that the Massachusetts’ law did not violate the Voting Rights Act, but was denied. In July 2009, in a 2–1 decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and held that no claims can be brought against Massachusetts law under the Voting Rights Act. The dissent argued that the majority reached its conclusion by improperly ignoring the plain and clear text of the Voting Rights Act and instead made illogical leaps based on secondary sources. In September 2009, the plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of certiorari.