Sacramento, Calif. – Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to restore the voting rights of convicted felons serving time in county jails. Thousands of felons serving time in county jails would be allowed to vote in California elections from behind bars under the new bill.
The bill that Brown announced signing Wednesday also reinstates the voting eligibility of felons on probation or under community supervision beginning next year. It does not affect those in state or federal prisons.
Through a representative, Brown declined to comment on the bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, who said it would reduce the likelihood of convicts committing new crimes.
“Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber said when the bill was introduced.
On Wednesday, Weber said California is setting an example at a time when other state’s are trying to limit voting rights.
“I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” Weber said Wednesday after the bill was signed.
AB2466 stems from California’s criminal justice realignment, which led to some people convicted of low-level felonies serving time in county jails.
Republican lawmakers say felons should not be allowed to cast ballots while serving a sentence, with Sen. Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel saying it compromises the integrity of elections.
Police chiefs and sheriffs throughout California say the proposal that passed narrowly in the state Assembly undermines a longstanding social compact: those who commit a serious crime lose not only their freedom to live in society for a time but also their right to participate in democracy.
Assemblywoman Weber says opponents don’t want to allow certain people to vote.