LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9 (AP) — California voters could decide whether to restore voting rights to people jailed for felony convictions under a newly proposed constitutional amendment.
If passed, it would be a major expansion of voting rights for the incarcerated. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California will join Maine and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia, as the only states where felons will never lose their voting rights, even if they are behind bars.
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A California bill introduced Monday by California Assemblyman Isaac Bryan proposes amendments to the state constitution.
“Democracy thrives when everyone has the opportunity to have their say,” Bryan tweeted.
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Two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the state legislature must vote in favor of the bill before it can appear on the ballot as a proposal. Voters must then pass it by a simple majority to become a constitutional amendment.
California is one of 21 states where felons will only lose the right to vote while incarcerated, the conference said. Rights are automatically restored upon release.
Some state laws require completion of probation and parole to restore voting rights. In other states, people incarcerated for certain crimes lose their rights indefinitely upon release.
California’s constitution currently disqualifies people who are incarcerated in state or federal prisons from voting and restores voting rights when they are released. The law previously required felons to complete their parole period before being granted the right to vote; Californians approved the change in a 2020 constitutional amendment to eliminate the requirement.
Bryan, a Los Angeles Democrat and chairman of the convention’s election committee, faces a tough sell with 2/3 of the vote. While the legislature is controlled by Democrats, the party has conservative representation from rural areas and is not guaranteed to pass major progressive policies.
The committee’s Republican vice chairman, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, opposed the bill.
“Criminal actions should have consequences. Voting is a sacred privilege, not an absolute right of citizenship,” tweeted Lackey, a Republican from Southern California. (Associated Press)
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