Capitol Alert

Bill to allow more felons to vote heads to Jerry Brown

An inmate at the Madera County Jail is taken to a housing unit at the facility in Madera, Calif. The California State Senate sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill Tuesday that would restore voting rights for thousands of low-level felons in jail.
An inmate at the Madera County Jail is taken to a housing unit at the facility in Madera, Calif. The California State Senate sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill Tuesday that would restore voting rights for thousands of low-level felons in jail. AP

California could soon restore voting rights for tens of thousands of felons who are not serving their sentences in the state prison system.

The state Senate on Tuesday passed Assembly Bill 2466 by a vote of 23-13, sending it to governor’s desk for consideration. The controversial measure clarifies that anyone convicted of a felony who is not currently imprisoned or on parole is allowed to vote.

AB 2466 was prompted by a 2014 lawsuit on behalf of low-level felons sentenced to county jurisdictions under the state’s criminal justice realignment law to reduce prison overcrowding.

The California Constitution prohibits anyone in prison or on parole for a felony from voting. But under the 2011 realignment law, some offenders now serve their sentences in county jails or are monitored by county probation instead.

An Alameda Superior Court judge ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla dropped the appeal last August, citing the need to re-engage inmates in society to reduce recidivism.

While Republican lawmakers largely objected to the bill as rewarding bad behavior, it passed with the support of Democrats, who argued it was necessary to comply with the court case. The court case applied to felons on probation while AB 2466 will encompass those in county jail.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said she has been battling over the issue in the Legislature for several years, but the support of Padilla and Attorney General Kamala Harris changed the momentum.

“It’s a wonderful day,” she said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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