In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisors approved a motion to officially support Proposition 17, which would restore voting rights to parolees if approved by California voters.
With the November 3 election quickly approaching, ensuring voting rights for Americans is of utmost concern. Recognizing the burden felony disenfranchisement places on communities, particularly on African Americans and communities of color, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn authored motion supporting the “Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment.”
The motion calls for granting voting rights to parolees in California who are United States citizens and recognizes September 22 as National Voter Registration Day throughout Los Angeles County.
This will enable the Free the Vote Task Force initiative to encourage the county’s residents to register to vote and promote civic engagement widely across the county.
Under Proposition 17, the voting rights to upwards of 50,000 California parolees who are working, paying taxes, and earnestly contributing to the overall welfare of their communities will be restored.
The introduction of this motion follows efforts led by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas over the past few years to expand voter and civic engagement as well as establish a voter engagement task force, oriented toward justice-involved populations. Research has shown that increasing civic empowerment among justice-involved populations reduces recidivism, in turn further empowering these individuals, their families, and their communities.
“Mass incarceration has devastated many communities, in particular communities of color,” said Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia. “Taking away the fundamental right to vote is one example of how mass incarceration is designed to perpetuate racial inequities. Restoring parolees voting rights will give them not only a chance at redemption but also add their valued voice back to our communities.”
In 2018, a motion authored by Ridley-Thomas and co-authored Supervisor Sheila Kuehl established the L.A. Free the Vote Task Force and a civic engagement plan for justice-involved voters. As a result, the L.A. Free the Vote Task Force launched a campaign to register 1,000 justice-involved individuals by this upcoming November election.
In 2019, the Board of Supervisors also approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl that supported the ACA 6 “Free the Vote Act” legislation, which initially placed Proposition 17 on the ballot. A New Way of Life Reentry Project’s Founder and President Susan Burton has since been a leading advocate for the amendment.
“A New Way of Life has housed thousands of women recently released from California prisons over the last two decades. They obey all laws, work, and pay taxes—but cannot vote,” Burton said. “We applaud Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the motion to support Proposition 17. Voting demonstrates positive citizenship. We want all residents of California to vote in this important election and elections to come.”
“As we prepare to celebrate September 22 as National Voter Registration Day, it is my hope that in the near future who we define as a voter will include the 50,000 parolees who are legally barred from voting,” Ridley-Thomas said.
This recent motion is another effort to ensure voter rights and engagement as the time until the election is quickly running out.
Read the complete motion below.
[Open .pdf in new window]