Oct 16, 2017 (San Diego) one of the bills signed by Governor Edmund Brown will allow low-risk level, County jail inmates to vote. The bill was authored by Shirley Webber from San Diego. AB 2466 will get programs in place at the County level “that is designed to encourage the registration of electors.” It does exclude those serving in state or federal prisons, as well as those on parole from those institutions.
The bill also requires state prisons to furnish the names and addresses of those in state prisons twice a year. This will mean those prisoners will have their voting rights canceled. This will help the county clerks to keep voting rolls up to date.
This is not just part of the prison realignment system, but an important reform to the electoral system, bringing the state of California in line with many advanced democracies. We are joining Canada.
We are also joining most of the European Union, that has varying degrees of who is allowed to vote. Germany, for example, has a similar rule. The average low-level prisoner can vote, but a serious crime cannot. Though they will allow burglars to vote. The most extensive list is from the BBC.
Prisoners do vote in Israel as well.
In places like Costa Rica, it gets weird since inmates have to be encouraged to vote.
Australia also allowed prisoners to vote. Realize Australia has mandatory voting rules in place. They require citizens to vote in every election. There are exceptions, such as a sentence longer than three years, or if you are in intensive care.
Why does this matter, and yes it is a critical change in any American state. There is a belief, that many EU nations prove, that one way to reduce repeat offenders is to keep them engaged in the affairs of the state. This includes voting. It is a critical prison reform, not a feel-good measure. And time will tell if that will help reduce repeat offenders.
One more thing, The people who are having their rights restored, in many cases are poor, and cannot afford to pay a traffic ticket. Running a red could potentially see you serve time in county jail. Should we take voting rights away from all who are in the county jail who commit offenses many of us on the outside have the economic means to pay?
We also know that these fines are used as a source of income for many municipalities. So this is one way to return some fairness to a situation that affects people of color in higher numbers.