Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bill Providing Voting Rights Information to Eligible Offenders Passes Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee

SACRAMENTO, CA- Assembly Member Shirley N. Weber’s (D-San Diego) AB 149 passed the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, Tuesday, April 23, 2013, with a 5-2 vote.

C0-sponsored by the California Civil Rights Coalition and the Greenlining Institute, AB 149 would ensure that persons involved in the criminal justice system are given accurate information about their voting rights and are afforded the opportunity to participate in the civic life of their communities.

Specifically, the bill would require the Department of Corrections to provide every parolee with a voter registration form and information about their voting rights upon the completion of their parole supervision. It would also require county probation departments to provide every eligible person under their supervision with a voter registration form and information on their voting rights. County sheriffs would also be required to provide this same information to eligible inmates of a county jail.

“Aside from the fact that voting has been proven to reduce recidivism among current and former offenders, it is a fundamental tenant of democracy,” said Assembly Member Weber. “I’m glad to see my colleagues on the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee stand with me in rectifying a situation where misinformation and misconceptions have had the consequence of disenfranchising an entire segment of eligible voters,” she said.

The California Constitution and state law provides that once a person has completed parole, his or her voting rights are automatically reinstated. However, in most instances, those involved in our criminal justice system are not apprised of their voting rights nor is accurate voter information readily accessible to them.

The lack of accurate voter registration information has a particularly disparate impact on communities of color in California, given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

By offering voter registration to the thousands of eligible voters who pass through our criminal justice system, the state will be taking an important step toward increasing its dismal voter registration rate.

AB 149 is supported by organizations such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and Rock the Vote. The next step in the legislative process is for the bill to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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