Frequently Asked Questions
Do people who have completed their prison sentence want to vote?
- A recent survey by Initiate Justice of more than 1,000 people in prison or on parole found that people with felony convictions want to vote. Like most Californians, the survey participants identified education, public safety, and economic stability as priority issues. Read the report in its entirety here.
Is it in the best interest of public safety to restore the right to vote for people who have completed their prison term?
- There is no criminal justice purpose for denying voting rights to people who have completed their prison sentence– and criminal corrections professionals agree.
- Promoting civic engagement not only makes our democracy stronger; it also makes it safer. When people feel that they are valued members of their community, and that their voices matter and concerns are addressed, they are less likely to re-engage in criminal activity.
- Research has found consistent differences between voters and non-voters after release in rates of subsequent arrests, incarceration, and self-reported behavior. That’s why the American Probation and Parole Association and the Association of Paroling Authorities International support restoring voting rights upon release from prison.
Shouldn’t people have to finish their prison sentences to vote?
- Prop 17 would only restore voting rights to people who have finished their prison sentences. These are Californians who have returned home from prison and are raising families, holding jobs, paying taxes, and contributing to society in every other way.
Do other states allow people to vote after they are released from prison?
- Yes, 19 other states plus the District of Columbia allow a person to vote after they are released from prison. Two of these states (Maine, Vermont) never take voting rights away for people with criminal convictions.
What’s the legislative history on this? Haven’t we already fixed felony disenfranchisement in California?
- Current law creates a confusing two-tiered system where some people with past felony convictions can vote and others cannot. This confusion inevitably means that some eligible voters are deterred from going to the polls every year.
- Prop 17 will clarify California law so that anyone who is not in prison can vote, but this clarification of voting rights for Californians with felony convictions requires a constitutional amendment, which must be passed by the voters.
What is ACA 6 and how does it relate to Prop 17?
- Any changes to the California constitution requires approval from voters. Because California’s constitution prohibits some people with felony convictions from voting even after they’ve been released from prison, Prop 17 must be approved by voters with a simple majority.
- Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 (ACA 6) was the legislative vehicle that put Prop 17 on the November ballot. ACA 6 passed both chambers of the California state legislature with two-thirds votes and bipartisan support.
- On the ballot, the measure will appear as Prop 17.
How does this compare to policies in other countries?
- Approximately half of all industrialized nations do not have any voter disenfranchisement at all. Of those that do, disenfranchisement is almost always limited to a person’s incarceration. In fact, in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights decided that a blanket ban on incarcerated people voting violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
1. The states are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont. (https://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/voter-restoration/felony-disenfranchisement-laws-map).
2. The Sentencing Project, Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer, (July 17, 2018), Jean Chung.