If voters approve of the amendment this fall, 48,000 people on parole in California would be allowed to vote in the next election.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment that would allow felons on parole to vote, sending the final decision to voters this November.
Voting rights for those on parole
Assembly Constitution Amendment 6, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would allow for restoration of voting rights immediately after serving their time in prison. If voters approve of the amendment this fall, 48,000 people on parole in California would be allowed to vote in the next election.
Also known as the Free the Vote Act, ACA 6 had been languishing in the Senate since being passed by the Assembly last year. Due to notable resistance in the Senate, the odds were not good for passage leading up until May. After the George Floyd protests,a renewed vigor went into the campaign due to arguments that not allowing those on parole unfairly targeted African-Americans and other minorities. In June, ACA 6 quickly passed through Senate Committees before narrowly getting the 2/3rds required for an amendment change bill 28-9 on Wednesday.
Assemblyman McCarty wrote the bill arguing that the law not allowing parolees to vote was racially charged and that it was akin to a Jim Crow law that unfairly focused on African-Americans. He pointed to statistics showing that 26% of the parole population was African-American, despite being only 6% of the state’s population. On Wednesday, the Assemblyman noted the victory on Twitter.
“ACA 6 passed on the Senate Floor!,” exclaimed Assemblyman McCarthy. “To get to this day was not easy, and there’s still work to be done. But I am thrilled that Californians will have an opportunity to weigh in this November, and use their voice to give voice to others.
#ACA6 passed on the Senate Floor! To get to this day was not easy, and there’s still work to be done. But I am thrilled that Californians will have an opportunity to weigh in this November, and use their voice to give voice to others. #FreetheVote #DemocracyNeedsEveryone pic.twitter.com/YtGVutnpMt
— Asm. Kevin McCarty (@AsmKevinMcCarty) June 24, 2020
Other supporters also noted the reasoning behind the bill.
“ACA 6 is headed to the ballot!” added Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) on Twitter. “This November, Californians will be able to vote to restore voting rights to individuals on parole. To build a truly equitable & democratic future, we must ensure that all voices are heard.”
Opposition against ACA 6
However, many were also against ACA 6. Opponents have said that, since they are under parole, that they are still under their original sentence outside of prison, and thus should not be allowed to vote. Others have said that it takes away a deterrent, as a growing segment of the prison population have said that they wanted to vote.
“It doesn’t seem like a big deal, even laughable, right? Someone complaining that they can’t vote in prison,” said former prisoner Mike Krieger, who had served time in lower security prisons in California. “But there are issues you care about, candidates you want to win. There are issues like these on the ballot you wish you could vote for.”
“So yeah, it does make you think twice sometimes when you’re back out. You don’t realize how important it is until it’s gone.”
Others have noted the criminal aspect of it.
“These are criminals who may now possibly vote without paying their full debt to society,” noted lawyer Mina Lopez. “It’s not about racial disenfranchisement at all. That’s only what so happens to be the makeup. No, this is about restoring a right they haven’t earned back yet.”
“And now they are one step away from getting it back.”
Californians will vote on ACA 6 during the general election on November 3rd. If passed, California will be the third state in the US to allow felons on parole to vote following Maine and Vermont.