California voters approved Proposition 17 on Tuesday, which allows individuals on parole for felony convictions the right to vote prior to completing their sentences.
The California State Constitution prevents individuals currently serving a state or federal prison sentence from voting. This ballot measure will amend the constitution, restoring the right to vote to 50,000 parolees. The measure will also seek to diminish voter disenfranchisement and racial voter suppression, as many minorities have had their right to vote stripped away due to criminal history.
Upon the passage of Proposition 17, Taina Vargas-Edmond, the executive chair of the Yes On Prop 17 campaign stated:
Far too long, Black and brown Californians have been excluded from our democracy. Today, California voters definitively righted a historic wrong. I’ll forever remember the phone call I received in 2017 from Rahsaan Thomas in San Quentin State Prison—who made it clear to me then, and has since made it clear to all Californians, that the first step to empowering people impacted by mass incarceration is to restore their right to vote. We’re grateful to the hundreds of organizations and individuals who supported this campaign, and to the millions of California voters who sent a clear message that our democracy needs everyone. 50,000 Californians now have their rightful say in our democracy.
Under Proposition 17, individuals still in prison will continue to be disqualified from voting. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia restore voting rights upon release from prison. Proposition 17 was supported by approximately 59 percent of voters.