New Report Reveals 97,000+ California Citizens Can’t Vote While Serving Felony Prison 

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By Rena Abdusalam

SACRAMENTO, CA – A recently released report (here) discloses more than 97,000 California citizens cannot vote while serving a prison term for a felony conviction, according to The Sentencing Project, a research center that advocates for humane responses to crime and promotes racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

Because of California’s constitution, the inability to vote for California citizens serving a prison term applies to any state, federal, or local facility, the report notes.

“Every individual, regardless of their history with our criminal legal system, has a right to vote on the laws that govern their lives and the communities they live in,” charged Kristen M. Budd, Research Analyst with The Sentencing Project and co-author of the report.

“California should strengthen its democracy and advance racial justice by guaranteeing the right to vote to all citizens with felony convictions, including people completing their sentence in prison,” continued Budd.

The Sentencing Project also includes other key findings regarding voting rights in its report, noting, “California’s voting ban results in stark racial injustices in ballot access diluting the political voice of people of color, who are disproportionately incarcerated.”

“Voting age Black Californians are 10 times as likely as whites to lose their right to vote due to serving a prison sentence for a felony conviction,” noted the report.

The report also said the state’s disenfranchisement rate is the “second highest…among states that only exclude imprisoned people from the ballot,” noting only Oregon has a larger share.

In addition, the report states “restoring voting rights can facilitate successful re-entry and reduce recidivism.

“Research supports the link between justice-impacted individuals having the right to vote and reduced recidivism. Voting helps keep justice-impacted citizens connected to their communities and bolsters their civic identity,” stated the organization.

“Expanding voting rights is politically popular as well. Polling from Lake Research Partners shows that the majority of Americans who are likely voters believe that voting should be a guaranteed right for all—including for persons completing their sentence inside and outside of prison,” added The Sentencing Project.

“We know from experience that people completing their sentences want to vote and that they care about our most critical issues, such as jobs and economic equality, education, healthcare, housing, and crime/harm prevention,” said the executive director of Initiate Justice, Antoinette Ratcliffe.

“California’s current practice of felony disenfranchisement doesn’t just impact the approximately 97,000 people barred from voting, it affects our entire families and communities, diluting the political voice of California’s most marginalized populations,” added Ratcliffe.

About The Author

Rena is a junior at Davis Senior High School and is currently exploring her interest in the criminal justice system. After high school, she plans to attend college and continue to pursue a career in law.

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