*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
We are in another election year and it is (nearly past) time to start considering not only who you want to vote for as president and to represent you regionally, but also to start doing your research on the measures on the California State Ballot this year. Or alternatively, you can follow this series of blog posts to get a summary of what's at stake with each measure, who is in support of and opposed to it, and a progressive's guide on checking No or Yes.
Proposition 17 is the next up in our California Ballot Series! In short, Prop 17 would restore the right to vote to citizens who had been stripped of that right during incarceration. You may not know this, but during their incarceration people cannot vote. Some states, like California, take this ban further by denying convicted felons who are released from prison, but on parole, the right to vote. Proposition 17 proposes to restore the right to vote to all individuals upon their release from prison, so long as the register to vote. If passed, this proposition would align CA more with other states, pursuing this more progressive and fair policy.
A vote for YES on this proposition would mean that you are casting your ballot to chip away at the disenfranchisement of individuals with a criminal record. Many of these individuals were sent to prison for non-violent offenses, or even felony drug charges for a substance that is not only legal, but an ‘essential business’. A parole commission report actually found that citizens who have completed their prison sentence and terms are less likely to commit future crimes when their right to vote is restored. When you treat people with humanity, you will see they often rise to the occasion.
People who have served their time should not be treated as less of an American citizen or less deserving of a political voice. The bans on voting for people with a history of felony convictions is actually a holdover from Jim Crow laws. In fact, I would argue that stripping anyone of the right to vote isn't right; prisoners have a vested interest in casting their votes and often are very marginalized members of society that resorted to crime because their needs were not being met. Maybe if we gave these people the chance to speak to these issues and vote, for community development, funding, programs and policies, the deficits that pushed them to crime would be met. Just food for thought. This ballot is a step in the right for direction for prisoner rehabilitation and equity.
A vote for NO on this proposition would mean you are voting in support of prisoners on state parole continuing to be ineligible to vote. Some arguments in favor of NO vote would be from those who favor a more punitive, as opposed to rehabilitative, approach to criminal justice. Another argument could be that this measure will likely cost several hundred thousand dollars in voter materials and registration costs. However, it is worthwhile to point out that these individuals could still register after their parole ends, necessitating the cost then, and also that we would simply be paying for their right to vote as we do with every other American citizen.
This voter guide urges you to make the progressive choice, and vote YES on Prop 17! Democracy needs every voice, and safer communities are built with greater civic engagement.