Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Considering Bill to Allow Jailed Felons to Vote

By Lauretta Brown | September 19, 2016 | 2:25pm EDT
(AP Photo)

( – The California state Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last month that would allow felons serving time in county jails the right to vote.

Current California law only allows felons the right to vote after they have completed parole.

The California constitution states that “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.”

The legislation addresses this language in the state’s constitution by defining imprisoned as “currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.”

Cory Salzillo, legislative director for the California State Sheriffs’ Association, pointed out to the Daily Signal that “the bill would create an odd circumstance in which inmates out of prison on parole are prohibited from voting, but felons behind bars in county jails could vote.”

Brown has until September 30th to consider signing the bill into law.

He previously signed the Criminal Justice Realignment Act in 2011, which allowed officials to move low-level offenders who are denied probation to county jails to address overcrowding in the state’s prisons.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supports the legislation, pointing out that “three out of every four men in California prisons are men of color,” concluding, “felony disenfranchisement laws are a legacy of Jim Crow.” 

The group called the bill “a step towards ending the shameful legacy of Jim Crow in California.”

“While national attention is focused on a few states, many fail to realize that in California voters of color have suffered new restrictions on their right to vote in recent years. I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, said in a statement when the bill passed the state Senate in August.

Voting rights for those with felony convictions vary across the United States.

Two states - Maine and Vermont - allow felons the right to vote while behind bars. Fourteen states restore voting rightsautomatically upon release from prison. Four states, including California, restore voting rights after completion of parole. Thirty-eight states restore voting rights after completion of sentence. 

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