State legislators push for amendment extending voting rights to Californians on parole

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Hoping to follow in Nevada and Colorado’s footsteps, California legislators have joined advocates in pushing for Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, or ACA 6, which would allow nearly 50,000 disenfranchised Californians to vote.

Introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), ACA 6 garnered the support of Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), as well as state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and other state and local politicians. Many of these officials also co-authored the amendment, which would allow Californians on parole to vote — a right they currently do not have.

“It is time to restore the right to vote for individuals who have served their time,” McCarty said in a press release. “ACA 6 will eliminate an arbitrary barrier to voting, reduce recidivism and give formerly incarcerated people an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to become productive, contributing members of our society.”

If the bill is passed through the California Legislature with a two-thirds majority in both houses, it will appear on the November 2020 California ballot, according to Nicholas Reiner, the director of communications at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

According to Reiner, disenfranchising those on parole is a form of voter suppression and is “deeply out of set with our values.”

“Nearly 50,000 Californians on parole pay taxes at the local, state, and federal levels,” Reiner said in an email. “However, they are not able to vote at any level of government. This system operates as ‘taxation without representation,’ which is antithetical to the founding of this country.”

Nationally, there are about six million Americans who are not allowed to vote “because of felony disenfranchisement,” according to the press release.

Many of those affected by voter suppression are members of marginalized communities, according to Reiner.

He added that the current legal system, through “over-policing” communities of color and other means, “systematically locks Black and Brown people out of the voting booth.”

“One of every 13 African Americans cannot vote due to being on probation or parole, versus one in every 56 non-black voters,” Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) said in the press release.

According to Reiner, those who are on parole should be embraced, involved and empowered to succeed in their communities.

Reiner also said that those involved in civic engagement, and those who feel more included in their community, are often less likely to re-engage in criminal activity and get swept back up into the prison system.

“Each election that is missed by someone living in our community is a lost opportunity to shape the future of our country,” Reiner said in the email. “It’s time for California to join the growing national movement to strengthen our democracy by empowering everyone — regardless of their past involvement with the criminal legal system — to have their voices counted.”

Mallika Seshadri is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.