Sacramento, CA – Today we joined the Free the Vote Coalition launched its multi-year campaign to end voter suppression for Californians with criminal records. California Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) introduced ACA 6, a constitutional amendment which begins the process of restoring the right to vote for Californians on parole. The legislation will create a 2020 ballot measure, giving California voters the opportunity to re-enfranchise their neighbors with convictions. Watch the video.
“It is time to restore the right to vote for individuals who have served their time.” said Asm. McCarty. “ACA 6 will eliminate an arbitrary barrier to voting, reduce recidivism, and give formerly incarcerated people an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to become productive, contributing members of our society.”
ACA 6 would be the next step in addressing the history of racial oppression behind California’s felony disenfranchisement laws. Today marks the 149th anniversary of California’s rejection of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits voting restrictions based on race.
“The removal of the right to vote is not based in an interest in public safety,” said Taina Vargas-Edmond, Executive Director of Initiate Justice. “Rather, it is rooted in a punitive justice belief system that robs Californians of color of their political power. Three of every four people leaving California prisons are either African American, Latino, or Asian American."
4.6 million people nationwide are ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction. Currently, nearly 50,000 people on parole throughout California—working, paying taxes, raising families in their communities—are unable to vote in any local, state, or federal elections. California is currently behind fourteen other states and Washington, D.C, which either automatically restore voting rights upon release from prison or have no felony disenfranchisement whatsoever. National momentum is growing to restore voting rights to people with convictions. Governors in New York and Virginia recently used executive power to re-enfranchise certain people who had finished their sentences. Last year, both Florida and Louisiana rolled back their bans on voting for formerly incarcerated people and New Mexico is introducing similar legislation this year.
“Felony disenfranchisement was written into the California Constitution during its inception in 1849,” said Brittany Stonesifer, Voting Rights Attorney at the ACLU of California. “Though the state now allows people to vote if they are in county jail, on probation, or on Post-Release Community Supervision, Californians on parole are still unfairly disenfranchised by our constitution.”
Because the disenfranchisement of Californians on parole is inscribed in the state's constitution, the restoration of voting rights to otherwise-eligible adults results only from a proposed amendment to the California Constitution. As a potential constitutional amendment, ACA 6 needs a ⅔ majority in both state houses to pass. The introduction of ACA 6 is the first step toward ensuring that Californians on parole can fully participate in our shared democracy and moves us closer to a reality in which all Californians have the right to vote.
“One of the fundamental rights of American citizenship is the right to vote,” said Shaka Senghor, Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “Giving people who are returning home from prison access to civic participation ensures their successful reintegration and makes our democracy stronger.”
About the Free the Vote Coalition
Free the Vote Coalition is made up of ten organizations whose goal is to restore the right to vote for all people impacted by the criminal justice system. In 2019, Free the Vote will advocate for an ACA that will implement a 2020 ballot measure to restore the right to vote for Californians on parole. The partners in sponsoring this bill are Initiate Justice, ACLU of California, All of Us or None / Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), League of Women Voters of California, People Over Profits San Diego, Vote Allies, and White People for Black Lives (WP4BL). California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is also a co-sponsor of ACA 6.
Contact eleslie [at] lwvc.org (Elizabeth Leslie) for interviews: 916-442-7215.