UKIAH — Thanks to a new law, felons incarcerated in county jails will be able to vote in this year’s election, on November 8. On September 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill removing voting restrictions on some incarcerated felons.
Previously, the law forbade people imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction from voting. But AB 2466, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), narrows the definition of “imprisonment” to mean serving a state or federal prison sentence.
Thousands of non-violent felons in California are serving time in county jails, rather than state prison, as a result of the 2011 Public Safety Realignment, which sought to reduce crowding in prison by sending more low-level inmates to county jails. Now, because of the language of this new law, felons serving their time in these county jails have the right to vote.
But many inmates have long had the right to vote. According to the ACLU, inmates may vote as long as they are over 18; are U.S. citizens and residents of California; are awaiting trial or are on trial for any crime; are jailed for a misdemeanor or as a condition of probation; are on probation or are waiting for a judge’s decision on a probation violation.
Standard deadlines still apply. Voters must submit voter registration forms and vote-by-mail ballot applications at least 15 days before Election Day. Inmates have the right to receive these materials in jail.
Misdemeanor convictions do not affect a citizen’s right to cast a ballot. In California, felons regain their voting rights immediately upon release from prison, but they must re-register to vote.
Sarah Reith 13 October 2016