California would allow prisoners to vote under a proposed new statewide initiative.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Monday informed proponents they can begin gathering signatures for the November 2018 ballot initiative that would eliminate restrictions on preregistering to vote. The proposal also would lift the state’s ban for those on felony parole.
The state estimates prison costs to rise by about $1 million a year to register and provide ballots to prisoners and parolees. Counties would be on the hook for hundreds of thousand dollars for the ballots and registering.
Currently, to register to vote in California you must be a U.S. citizen and state resident who is 18 years or older on Election Day. Eligible voters cannot be in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony. Nor can they be found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
Misdemeanor sentences do not affect the right to vote, including for those serving time in county jail, on probation, on mandatory supervision or on post-release community supervision.
Proponent Taina Vargas-Edmond, founder and executive director of Initiate Justice, wrote that the purpose of the measure is to uphold the right to vote as fundamental to any democracy.
Supporters also say it will protect the rights of all U.S. citizens to participate in the democratic process, and prohibit the disenfranchisement of voters on the basis that they are imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.
They must gather 585,407 signatures from registered voters by April 25 to qualify for the ballot.