This year, California legislators will decide whether a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to people on parole can be on the ballot for the 2020 elections.
According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 (ACA 6), also known as the Free the Vote Act, was introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty.
ACA 6 will pave the way for a 2020 ballot measure that would restore the voting rights of about 50,000 parolees.
Under Article II, section 4 of California’s Constitution “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.”
“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,” McCarty said, according to a witness- la.com article.
In an interview with San Quentin News, Eric Henderson of Initiate Justice said that the idea for ACA 6 stemmed from conversations between Taina Vargas-Edmond, Executive Director of Initiate Justice, and incarcerated people.
According to a Common Cause report titled “Democracy Behind Bars: How money in politics, felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering fuel mass incarceration and undermine democracy,” the practice of felony disenfranchisement was brought over by the original colonists as the British practice of “civil death,” which included the loss of property, voting, and other civil rights.
Common Cause also noted the racial legacy when felony disenfranchisement was used to bar free black men from voting after the Civil War.
In November of last year, Floridians passed Constitutional Amendment 4, which was supposed to restore the voting rights of more than half a million convicted felons, according to an article in Politico.
However, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature is maneuvering a bill through the legislative process that would limit the voting rights gained by the 64% voter-approved Amendment 4.
“This is exactly what we were worried about from the beginning—legislative at- tempts to undermine the will of the people who voted for second chances and to rid Florida of the last vestiges of its Jim Crow-era past,” said Kirk Bailey, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, according to Politico.
An article in the Washington Post, “What gets ex-prisoners politically and civically involved?, Credited Florida’s Amendment 4 with re-enfranchising “more than one-fifth of the state’s African American population.”
The Republicans’ pro- posed bill includes a list of crimes that would disqualify someone from being allowed to vote and also requires the formerly incarcerated to pay court costs, fines, and fees as part of completing their sentence before they can vote.
“When partisan politics gets involved, the people lose,” said Neil Volz, political director with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition in Politico.
Under Amendment 4, people convicted of murder or felony sexual assault still are barred from voting.
According to the witnessla. com article, in the last two decades there have been nationwide voting reforms that have reinstated 1.4 million Americans on either the local or state level. However, there are another 6 million are still barred from voting because of their criminal past.
“Civic participation is foundational to a sense of community—and it can play a major role in reducing recidivism,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who supports the new ACA 6 bill.
If ACA 6 passes through the Legislature, the 2020 ballot proposal would restore the voting rights of people on parole, leaving disenfranchised the mentally incompetent and the incarcerated.