Attorney General Kamala D. Harris is backing Assembly Bill 2466 would ensure state law reflects a recent Superior Court ruling restoring voting rights to individuals serving time under community supervision.
The bill would also expand voting rights to those serving a felony sentence in county jail.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right,” said Attorney General Harris.
The proposed bill would ensure that individuals on post-release community supervision and mandatory supervision are eligible to vote statewide, codifying a 2014 ruling in the case of Scott v. Bowen, in which the Superior Court of Alameda County found that these individuals retain their voting rights under Section 2, Article II of the California Constitution.
The bill further specifies that a person who is not imprisoned – defined as serving a state or federal prison sentence – or on parole for the conviction of a felony, is eligible to register to vote, effectively guaranteeing that serving a felony sentence in county jail will not strip individuals of their right to vote.
“In our rush to be seen as tough on crime, we have overlooked a fundamental principal of justice in our democracy – fairness in the application of punishments,” said Assemblymember Shirley Weber, the author of the bill.
“I am grateful for the Attorney General’s support for this legislation. It is significant that the state’s top law enforcement official acknowledges that low-level offenses do not meet the appropriately high threshold for stripping Californians of their Constitutional voting rights.”
In 1976, California ended permanent disenfranchisement and narrowed restrictions on voting eligibility to people currently imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction. In 2011, following the passage of the Criminal Justice Realignment Act, more than 60,000 Californians were disenfranchised in the wake of an ongoing debate regarding how to interpret the terms “imprisoned” and “parole.”
This debate was put to rest with the ruling in Scott v. Bowen when the Superior Court of Alameda County drew a distinction between the new forms of community supervision and parole.