Capitol Alert

Should convicted felons on parole be allowed to vote? Californians may soon decide

At 21, Dauras Cyprian was given a life sentence for second-degree murder. After leaving prison 26 years later, he was placed on parole for five years.

Now, halfway through his parole term, Cyprian pays taxes and has a full-time job. There’s a lot he can do now that he’s outside of prison, but one issue has remained constant: He can’t vote.

Cyprian is among 48,000 Californians on parole for felony convictions who are unable to cast a ballot. He joined lawmakers and civil rights activists in Sacramento on Monday to promote a plan that would restore parolees’ voting rights.

“Voting is the cornerstone of any democracy,” Cyprian said. “When I went to prison and was incarcerated, I didn’t lose my citizenship. So why should I lose my access to democracy simply because I’m on parole?”

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, known as the Free the Vote Act, and said the plan would put California in line with other states, though he declined to go as far as Vermont or Maine in allowing people to vote while they are in prison.

“When it comes to allowing those formerly incarcerated to vote, California is behind the pack,” McCarty said. “Roughly half the states in our country are more progressive in regard to letting felons and those on parole vote.”

His proposal requires two-thirds support from both chambers in the Legislature. If Democratic majorities approve the amendment, it will make its way to voters in 2020 — where it would then need a simple majority to become law.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he’ll urge voters to support the measure in 2020 because he wants to undo policies he considers restrictive.

“Extending the right to vote simply makes sense,” Padilla said.

Sophia Bollag contributed reporting.

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