LEADING NATIONAL AND STATE ADVOCACY GROUPS, BEN & JERRY’S, AND THE SACRAMENTO BEE ENDORSE PROPOSITION 17

– “YES” on Prop 17 Will Restore Voting Rights to Nearly 50,000 Californians Who Have Completed Prison Terms –

For Immediate Release

October 15, 2020

Contact: Shay Franco-Clausen, media@yeson17.vote, 408-966-8157

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Yes On Prop 17 campaign announced a wide array of endorsements from leading national and state advocacy groups, Ben & Jerry’s, and The Sacramento Bee in favor of Proposition 17, a measure on the November ballot that would restore the right to vote for nearly 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison terms.

Among the latest wave of national endorsers are Color Of Change PAC, Human Rights Watch, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Urban League, R Street Institute, The Sentencing Project, and UnidosUS.

Proposition 17 would amend the state constitution so that all Californians who have completed their prison term would automatically regain the right to vote. The Yes On Prop 17 campaign is based on the belief that these individuals, having completed their prison term, are entitled to have their voice heard in our democracy, and that the current law is a relic of California’s 19th century efforts to disenfranchise Black, Latino, and Asian American citizens.

The campaign’s website highlights the personal stories of Californians who have been impacted by mass incarceration and who would regain their voice in our democracy with the passage of Proposition 17. Read more here.

“Nearly 50,000 Californians who have returned home from prison can’t vote. They should be inspired and supported to reenter society to have a voice in their community,” said Taina Vargas-Edmond, executive chair of the Yes On Prop 17 campaign and co-founder and executive director of Initiate Justice. “This November, California has the opportunity to right past injustices by voting YES on Proposition 17, and we’re beyond humbled to have the exceptional leadership and support of today’s endorsers, all of whom are committed to paving the way to justice for all.”

In recent weeks, the Yes On Prop 17 campaign has also secured endorsements from Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, California Council of Churches, CAIR-California, Campaign Legal Center, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Union of Healthcare Workers, Rock the Vote Action Fund, SEIU-UHW, Sierra Club California, UAW Western States, UFCW Western States Council, United Ways of California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and many more. (The complete list of endorsers is below.)

“Today, there are laws still on the books across the country that were enacted to stifle the political power of Black citizens,” said Christopher Miller, head of global activism strategy at Ben & Jerry’s. “These laws stand as a relic of our nation’s history of racial injustice and amplify the damaging effect of systemic racism on communities of color. We encourage every Californian who cares about civil rights and social justice issues to vote YES on Prop 17.”

“Voting is supposed to be the foundation of our democracy, yet it remains inaccessible for millions of Americans,” said Arisha Hatch, executive director of Color Of Change PAC. “Felony disenfranchisement is one of our nation’s longest standing practices created to keep Black people from voting. It is time we do away with this archaic and harmful policy. With some states having restored voting rights for returning citizens, it’s time for California to get on the same page. We can only achieve a true representative democracy when all Americans can cast a ballot.”

“With Prop 17, California is taking the important step of ensuring that those who have completed their prison terms can fully participate in our democracy by restoring their right to vote,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Prop 17 would amend the California Constitution and end disenfranchisement for people on parole – restoring voting rights to nearly 50,000. We urge passage of Prop 17 to help dismantle the relics of racial injustice and combat voter suppression among Black and brown communities that are subject to unequal treatment in our criminal legal system.”

“Human Rights Watch supports Prop 17 as an important step towards fulfilling the state’s obligation under international human rights law to ensure voting rights for all citizens,” said Alison Leal Parker, managing director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program. “Ensuring the human right to vote means restoring and respecting the voting rights of any citizen who may have a conviction of any kind, and who has been released from incarceration, including people under probation or parole or who may owe fines and fees.”

“As the country slowly grapples with undoing the draconian consequences of previous criminal convictions Prop 17 poses an illuminating question for California’s general electorate: What exactly are you afraid of if persons who have paid their debt are allowed to vote? We cannot fear democracy. Not now. Not ever. Vote YES on Prop 17,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Proposition 17 would put California in league with a growing number of states across the country restoring the right to vote to returning citizens. The legacy of structural racism in this country continues to result in a disproportionate number of people of color interacting with the criminal justice system and being incarcerated. Californians now have the opportunity to help right the scales of justice by affirming the right of all Americans—regardless of their race, national origin, or criminal history—to have their voices heard on the issues and candidates that impact their lives, those of their families, and the communities in which they live and work, and to which they contribute,” said Monique Dixon, deputy director of policy and director of state advocacy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Inc.

“Felony disenfranchisement is rooted in the post-Reconstruction-era crackdown on civil rights for Black Americans known as Jim Crow,” said Marc Morial, CEO and president of the National Urban League. “Unequal justice means Black and Brown Americans are disproportionately deprived of the most fundamental right under our democracy. Restoring the voting rights of returning citizens not only is a step away from our racist past, it is a step toward safer, more stable and more equitable communities. The National Urban League is proud to endorse Prop 17 and call on other states to follow California’s example.”

“We support Prop 17 because restoring the right to vote for those who have completed their prison sentences embraces human dignity and second chances,” said Arthur Rizer, director of criminal justice and civil liberties and senior fellow at the R Street Institute. “It means our fellow reentering neighbors are actually welcomed back into their community and civically engaged. And practically speaking, empirical research suggests that restoring voting rights might decrease reoffending rates by making individuals feel more connected with their communities.”

“Prop 17 would reduce the disenfranchised population in California by almost 50%,” said Nicole D. Porter, director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project. “California cannot claim progressive values while excluding so many from the franchise. In recent years, Colorado, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey all took steps to expand the vote for residents on parole. California should be next.”

“As 40% of the Californians on parole, Latinos understand the importance of restoring the right to vote to Americans who have completed their sentence and reenter their communities,” said Jose Carmona, policy advisor at UnidosUS. “While much work is left to be done to address the systemic inequities of our justice and electoral systems, Prop 17 signals a commitment to meaningfully address policies that marginalize communities of color and silence their voices.”

If Proposition 17 is approved, California would join Washington, D.C., and 17 other states, both red and blue, that automatically restore voting rights upon release from prison. California will also become the first state to restore voting rights via statewide ballot measure since the 2018 passage of Amendment 4 in Florida.

Endorsements of Proposition 17 as of today:

Elected Officials:

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Ro Khanna, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Governor Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Assemblymember Marc Berman, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, Assemblymember Mike Gipson, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Assemblymember Marc Levine, Assemblymember Evan Low, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Assemblymember Luz Rivas, Assemblymember Mark Stone, Assemblymember Shirley Weber, California State Board of Equalization Chair Malia Cohen, Candidate for State Senate District 15 Ann Ravel, former State Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de León, State Senator Jim Beall, State Senator Bill Dodd, State Senator Lena Gonzalez, State Senator Scott Weiner, and State Senator Bob Wieckowski.

Cities and Counties:

City of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín                                 City of Berkeley

City of Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia                                  City of Long Beach

City of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo                                      City of San Jose

City of San Jose Vice Mayor Charles “Chappie” Jones                 City of West Hollywood

Los Angeles County                                                                      Santa Clara County

Activists, Community Organizations, and Business Organizations:

Activist Kimberly Ellis, actress Annie Gonzalez, #cut50, A New PATH, Advancement Project California, Alameda County Community Food Bank, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, American Association of University Women, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian Solidarity Collective, Bay Rising, Ben & Jerry’s, Berkeley Tenants Union, and Black Lives Matter – California.

California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Association of Nonprofits, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Common Cause, California Calls, California Environmental Justice Alliance Action, California Families Against Solitary Confinement , California Health Advocates, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, California League of Conservation Voters, California NORML, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Campaign Legal Center, CAUSE Action Fund, Center for Employment Opportunities, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Chispa, Chrysalis, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Color Of Change PAC, Courage California, Defy Ventures, Dignity and Power Now, Disability Rights California, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, East Bay for Everyone, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, End Citizens United, Equal Justice Society, Equality California, Essie Justice Group, Evolve California, Fair Chance Project, Greenlining Institute, Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, Housing California, Human Impact Partners, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, Justice LA, and Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County.

La Defensa, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Let America Vote, Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership (LARRP), MALDEF, Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., NARAL Pro-Choice California, National Center for Youth Law, National Urban League, Northern California Grantmakers, Our Revolution East Bay, Outten & Golden LLP, Pasadenans Empowering Parent Participation in Education Governance, People over Profit – San Diego, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, PolicyLink, Prison From-TheInside-Out Inc., R Street Institute, Re:Store Justice, Right2Vote Campaign, Rock the Vote Action Fund, San Bernardino Free Them All, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), San Francisco YIMBY, Secure Democracy, Showing Up for Racial Justice – Bay Area, Showing Up for Racial Justice – Marin, Sierra Club California, Sierra Club San Diego, Silicon Valley DeBug, Success Stories Program, TechEquity Collaborative, The Million Voters Project, The Sentencing Project, TheatreWorkers Project, Time for Change Foundation, Transformative In-Prison Workgroup, Transforming Justice Orange County, UnCommon Law, UnidosUS, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Way Bay Area, United Ways of California, UNITE-LA, We the People – San Diego, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Young Women’s Freedom Center.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety Organizations:

American Probation and Parole Association, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and Smart Justice California.

Faith Organizations:

Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, CAIR-California, California Council of Churches, California Religious Action Center (RAC-CA), Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, Friends Committee on Legislation of California, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Jewish Center for Justice, Jewish Community Relations Council, LA Voice, Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California, Multi-faith ACTION Coalition, National Council of Jewish Women, People Acting in Community Together, PICO California, and Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California.

Unions and Associations:

AFSCME, AFSCME 3299, California Association of Nonprofits, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Medical Association, California Primary Care Association, California Psychological Association, California Public Defenders Association, Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, IBEW Local 569, IFPTE Local 21, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Los Angeles Public Defenders Union Local 148, National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter, National Union of Healthcare Workers, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, San Francisco Human Services Network, San Francisco Tenants Union, San Mateo County Central Labor Council, SEIU California, SEIU Local 1021, SEIU Local 221, SEIU Local 521, SEIU Local 721, SEIU-UHW, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, UAW Local 5810, UAW Western States, UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, UFCW Local 324, UFCW Western States Council, and Valley Industry & Commerce Association.

Media:

Daily Breeze, East Bay Times, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Times, San Bernardino Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Santa Barbara Independent, The Fresno Bee, The Mercury News, The Orange County Register, The Press Democrat, The Press-Enterprise, The Sacramento Bee, and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Political Organizations:

Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, Beverly Hills Democratic Club, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Black Women Organizing for Political Action, California Democratic Party, California Democratic Party Black Caucus, California Democratic Party LGBT Caucus, California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, California Young Democrats, Clairemont Democratic Club, Democratic Socialists of America – Los Angeles, Democratic Socialists of America – Orange County, Democratic Socialists of America – San Diego, Democratic Socialists of America – Santa Cruz, Democratic Socialists of America – Silicon Valley, East Bay Young Democrats, Green Party of California, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, Libertarian Party of California, Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sacramento County Democratic Party, San Diego Democrats for Equality, San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club, San Francisco Green Party, San Francisco Women’s Political Committee, San Mateo County Democratic Party, Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, Santa Clara County Democratic Party, Santa Clara County Libertarian Party, Silicon Valley Stonewall Democrats, United Democratic Club, Valley Grassroots for Democracy, Ventura County Democratic Party, and West Hollywood Democratic Club.

Student Organizations:

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, Cal Berkeley Democrats, California High School Democrats, Underground Scholars Initiative – UC Santa Barbara, and University of California Students Association.

**Media interviews are available upon request**:

  • Taina Vargas-Edmond, executive chair of the Yes On Prop 17 campaign and co-founder and executive director of Initiate Justice.
  • Californians who have been impacted by mass incarceration can share their personal stories and reasons why regaining their voice in our democracy with the passage of Proposition 17 is so important to each of them.

Proposition 17 is sponsored by Yes On Prop 17, a campaign by and for Californians directly impacted by mass incarceration, and the following organizations: ACLU of California, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Initiate Justice, League of Women Voters of California, Mi Familia Vota, Vote Allies, Voting Rights Lab Action, and White People 4 Black Lives. To learn more, visit yeson17.vote.

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