Senator McCarty speaking at a rally for the Free The Vote

The Campaign

Free the Vote California believes that our democracy works best when it is fair and inclusive. Our campaign will restore voting rights to people on parole in two steps:

1.

Pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6 and Assembly Bill (AB) 646 through the legislature

2.

Place parole voting rights on the 2020 state ballot

The Problem

It’s unfair and undemocratic to disenfranchise people who are on parole and relegate them to second-class citizenship.

Felony disenfranchisement – including in California – dates back to the era of racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws. It’s time to end this shameful chapter of our history. This bill will roll back a substantial form of voter suppression currently facing Californians of color.

3 of every 4 men leaving California prisons are either African American, Latino, or Asian American. Black Americans are four times more likely to experience felony disenfranchisement than are white Americans.

Confusingly, current state law bans voting for some people on community supervision, but allows it for others. This confusion inevitably means that some eligible voters will be deterred from going to the polls. Ending disenfranchisement for people on parole would clarify voting rights for all formerly incarcerated people in California.

Daurus Cyprian speaking at a podium on the Capitol steps

The Solution

At a time when our national democratic institutions are under threat, Californians should join the growing movement to free the vote for people on parole.

ACA 6 / AB 646 will amend the California Constitution and Elections Code to make sure that Californians serving a period of parole can fully participate in our democracy by restoring their right to vote.

Parole is intended to be a period of reintegration into the community. Allowing a person to vote after they have finished their prison sentence increases that person’s feeling of connection to their community.

Last year, both Florida and Louisiana rolled back their bans on voting for formerly incarcerated people. Minnesota, Iowa, and New Mexico are all considering measures this year to restore the vote to people who have finished their felony sentences. It’s time for California to reclaim its role as a national leader in progressive and inclusive policy-making.

A person who is incarcerated clasping their hands and smiling

The Impact

162,000 people in California cannot vote because they are in prison or on parole. Hear what Jayda, Hugo, Richard, Adam, James, and Kenneth would vote for if their voting rights were restored.

“If I Could Vote” Video

“If I Could Vote” video by Initiate Justice

#DemocracyNeedsEveryone Report

“Democracy Needs Everyone: The Urgency of Ending Felony Disenfranchisement in California” is a first-of-its-kind report unveiling our groundbreaking research on the importance of restoring the right to vote to people in prison and on parole.

“Democracy Needs Everyone” Report

Click here to download the report

We surveyed more than 1,000 incarcerated people and people on parole in California with the goal of uncovering how our political system could improve by ending felony disenfranchisement. Our key findings were:

  • People who are incarcerated and on parole believe that restoring the right to vote would improve public safety. A majority of respondents indicated that voting would make them feel connected to their community and help prevent them from returning to prison. Many had policy proposals on how to prevent incarceration in the first place.
  • People who are incarcerated and on parole want to vote. They care about issues that affect everyone, not just themselves, and have ideas about how to make our country a better place
  • People who are incarcerated and on parole contribute to their community in a variety of ways. They are trying to have a positive impact despite their circumstances, and we would all benefit by hearing their voices, as they grapple with social issues, political concerns, and ideas for a better future.