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Outside the California Institution for Men in Chino. (Photo: cdcr.ca.gov/)

Prop. 17 Allows Former Felons to Vote

Initiative restored their right to vote upon the completion of their prison term while still on parole

By Chris Micheli, November 5, 2020 6:20 am

Approved by about 60% of California’s voters, Proposition 17 on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot restores the right to vote for former felons upon completion of their prison term. Placed on the ballot by the Legislature as ACA 6 (McCarty), Chapter 24, Prop. 17 amends Sections 2 and 4 of Article II of the California Constitution.

Under the current language in the state Constitution, the Legislature is required to provide for the disqualification of electors who are mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony. In addition, existing law in the Elections Code defines “imprisoned” as currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.

Prop. 17 directs the Legislature to provide for the disqualification of electors who are serving a state or federal prison sentence for the conviction of a felony. In addition, Prop. 17 deletes the requirement that the Legislature provide for the disqualification of electors while on parole for the conviction of a felony. As a result, Prop. 17 provides for the restoration of voting rights upon completion of the felon’s prison term.

As a result of the electorate’s adoption of Prop. 17, Article II, Section 2 was amended as follows:

SEC. 2.

(a)  A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.

(b) An elector disqualified from voting while serving a state or federal prison term, as described in Section 4, shall have their right to vote restored upon the completion of their prison term.

In addition, Prop. 17 amended Article II, Section 4 as follows:

SEC. 4.

The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony.

With these two changes to the state Constitution, a felon will have his or her right to vote restored once the felon has completed his or her state or federal prison term. As a result, while still on parole, a felon can now vote.

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