Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored a motion with Supervisor Janice Hahn to take an official position in support of Proposition 17, the “Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment.”
California Proposition 17 is on the ballot in California as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment for the upcoming elections on November 3, 2020.
The motion by Ridley-Thomas and Hahn was approved in a 4-1 vote, and calls for granting voting rights to parolees in California who are United States citizens and calls for recognizing September 22, 2020 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.
Currently, the California Constitution disqualifies people with felonies from voting until their imprisonment and parole are completed. The ballot measure would amend the state constitution to allow people with felonies who are on parole to vote; therefore, the ballot measure would keep imprisonment as a disqualification for voting but remove parole status.
“Mass incarceration has devastated many communities, in particular communities of color. 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,” said Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia.
According to the motion, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimated that in 2019, over 50,000 California parolees were prohibited from voting in state, federal, or local elections.
The burden of felony disenfranchisement has a significant impact on African Americans who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and thus further perpetuates systemic racism and social inequality, as stated in the motion.
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.
In 2019, the Board of Supervisors also approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that supported the ACA 6 “Free the Vote Act” legislation, which initially placed Proposition 17 on the ballot.
In 2018, a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and co-authored by Kuehl established the LA Free the Vote Task Force and a civic engagement plan for justice-involved voters.
“As we prepare to celebrate September 22nd 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,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.
Janice Hahn is the supervisor of LA county’s fourth district which includes the cities of Long Beach, Signal Hill, Wilmington, San Pedro and dozens of others in the South Bay Area.
Mark Ridley-Thomas is the supervisor of LA county’s second district which includes the cities of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and more cities in the South LA area.