Convicted Low-Level Felons Could Get Voting Rights in California

A new proposed bill in the state of California, A.B. 2466 now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his approval. The bill would redefine who is entitled to register to vote, with the intent of restoring voting rights for the many ex-offenders within the state.

Today, racial minorities remain disproportionately excluded from voting as a result of the documented bias in drug law enforcement and sentencing. The “war on drugs” and subsequent decades of mass incarceration have blocked millions of people out of the electoral process. In California prisons, three out of every four men are either African American, Latino, or Asian American. African Americans, who comprise less than 7% of California’s voting-age population, currently represent 28% of those who cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement.

Voting rights in the rest of the country depends on the state law. For example, two states, Maine and Vermont, allows felons to vote while behind bars. Fourteen states restore voting rights after a prisoner has been released from prison.

The Lay of the Land

Existing law provides that a person is entitled to register to vote if:

  • S/he is a United States citizen, a resident of California,
  • Not found mentally incompetent by a Court,
  • Not imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and
  • At least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.

The state of California specifically blocks voting rights for those currently imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony. However, no misdemeanor on  your record will affect your right to vote. Voting rights are also automatically restored if you are done with parole.

In 2011, California passed the Criminal Justice Realignment Act. Under CA Penal Code § 1170(h), low-level felons are sentenced to county jail and/or supervision by the county probation department instead of state prison. Due to litigation in the Alameda County Superior Court, a court has held that people sentenced to mandatory or community supervision are not “on parole” and therefore retain their right to vote. A.B. 2466 would codify that ruling, and also clarify that time in county jail, as opposed to state prison, will not block someone’s right to vote. Supporters of the bill argue that allowing ex-offenders to participate as productive members of society also reduces recidivism.

San Diego Criminal Defense and Felony Defense Attorney

At The Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we are staunch defenders of your constitutional rights and believe that one’s past record should not haunt them forever. We handle all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases and will walk you through your case from arrest to trial and do our best to keep you out of jail. In the case you do have a conviction on your record, we will get it expunged, if possible. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, do not hesitate to contact attorney David Boertje today. Consultations are free and confidential.