Frequently Asked Questions
Do people on parole want to vote? Is it in the best interest of public safety to restore the right to vote for people on parole?
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.
Shouldn’t people have to finish their prison sentences to vote?
In California, a person has legally finished their prison sentence the day they are released from prison. People on parole have already finished their sentences; parole is a post-sentence period of community supervision while people reintegrate into the community.
Do other states allow people to vote while they’re on parole?
Yes, in 16 other states1 and the District of Columbia a person’s right to vote is automatically restored after their release from prison. Two states (Maine, Vermont) have no disenfranchisement for people with convictions.
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 Rights2.
What’s the legislative history on this? Haven’t we already fixed felony disenfranchisement in California?
Since the passage of the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011, and as Californians have moved away from overly-punitive tough-on-crime laws in recent years, we’ve clarified that people may still vote if they are in county jail, on probation, or on Post-Release Community Supervision. The most recent legislation on this was AB 2466 (Weber, 2016). Our state constitution, however, still prohibits otherwise-eligible voters from voting while they are “imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.” Expanding voting rights any further for Californians with convictions requires a constitutional amendment, which means ACA 6 must be passed by ⅔ of each house before being put on the 2020 ballot.
1. The states are Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah (http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/felon-voting-rights.aspx).
2. The Sentencing Project, Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer, (July 17, 2018), Jean Chung.