will restore voting rights
Prop 17 will amend the California Constitution to allow Californians who have completed their prison term to vote.
As the rate of mass incarceration in the U.S. has exploded in recent decades, the ban on voting for people with past convictions has only intensified voter suppression. The California Constitution currently prohibits people with felony convictions from voting while they are in prison or on parole. As a result, nearly 50,000 Californians living in and contributing to their communities who have completed their prison sentence are denied the opportunity to help choose the representatives and shape the policies that impact their daily lives.
Californians who have completed their prison sentence should not be punished
They should be encouraged to reenter society and have a stake in their community, not have their voting rights denied. Prop 17 will ensure that everyone who has completed their prison term can have their voice heard in our democracy.
Why Prop 17?
Denying voting rights to people who have completed their prison sentence, who raise families, hold jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to society in every other way, works against reentry by extending punishment beyond one’s prison sentence. Restoring a person’s voting rights helps those who have served their prison sentence strengthen their connection to the community. While restoring voting rights encourages people to think about their role in society, denying them the right to vote sends exactly the wrong message about their stake in the community.
Disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts people of color
Biases in the criminal justice system mean that poor people and people of color are more likely than others to be convicted of crimes and to lose their voting rights, while wealthy people can always afford the best lawyers. Because of persistent and systematic racial inequalities in our criminal legal system, three out of four men leaving California prisons are Black, Latino, or Asian American. This means California’s constitution disproportionately locks people of color out of the voting booth.
We can’t have an elected government that represents all of us when some members of our community are being excluded from our elections and denied the ability to participate in our democracy.
Civic engagement makes communities stronger
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 automatically restoring voting rights upon release from prison.
Current law is confusing
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.
The national movement for restoring voting rights is growing
California currently lags behind 19 other states plus Washington, D.C, which either automatically restore voting rights upon release from prison or never take voting rights away. National momentum is growing to restore voting rights to people with past convictions. In the last two years alone, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Colorado, and Louisiana have expanded access to the ballot for people with past convictions.
It’s time for California to reclaim its role as a national leader in progressive and inclusive policy-making by passing Prop 17.