Denying the right to vote to formerly incarcerated people is part of our nation’s long history of racial discrimination and inequality of opportunity. Over the course of our history, criminal convictions have been used to ban voters of color from the voting booth. Sadly, it’s a legacy that’s still felt today.
California prides itself in leading the nation in forward-looking ideas and progressive policy. But when it comes to restoring the right to vote to the formerly incarcerated, California is out of step.
It is past time for us to restore the right to vote to people on parole.
We have a chance to do just that with ACA 6, better known as the Free the Vote Act. If approved by the Legislature, California voters would have the opportunity to vote this November to amend our state constitution and allow Californians serving on parole to register and vote. These are Californians who are no longer in state prison and are back living and working in their communities.
If you agree that we must lead the way in strengthening our democracy by making voting accessible for all, I urge you to join me in taking action.
In recent years, California has wisely chosen to invest in formerly incarcerated individuals through education, job training, counseling, and other supportive services. Research and experience tell us this is key to individuals reoffending at lower rates and becoming productive members of their community. Research also shows us that civic participation is another key element of community engagement – it’s one reason why my office works to educate those with criminal convictions about their rights.
Restoring the vote isn’t only the smart thing to do — it’s the right thing to do. The inequities in our criminal justice system are stark: three out of four men leaving California prisons are African American, Latino, or Asian American.
If we’re serious about dismantling racism and creating a truly inclusive democracy, then we must take this important step to grant formerly incarcerated Californians the right to vote.