On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to allow thousands of felons in county jails the ability to vote while incarcerated. The bill, AB 2466 (Weber), rewrites the definition of an eligible voter in California to include prisoners convicted of felonies who are currently serving their sentence in a county jail. The measure was opposed by the California State Sheriff’s Association and passed in the Assembly by a bare majority.
“It is unconscionable that we would restore the right to vote to incarcerated felons simply based on where they are incarcerated,” said Steinorth. “The right to vote is a fundamental and cherished one, and this law trivializes the most profound duty of citizenship. Only when a person has fulfilled their obligation to their victim or victims, through completing their sentence, should they regain this right. Tragically, today that concept was turned on its head.”
In 2011, state legislation known as the Criminal Justice Realignment Act (“realignment”) mandated certain felons serve their sentence in county jails rather than state facilities. These “low-level” felons must have no prior convictions for defined “serious” offenses, and the “realignment” is aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons. For such “realigned” felons, the respective counties must also provide “post-release community supervision” in place of state-supervised parole. A 2014 lawsuit against the California Secretary of State argued that felons serving time in county jail under “realignment” were being improperly denied the right to vote. The suit was initially upheld in Alameda County Superior County, and the Secretary of State eventually dropped its appeal in August 2015. AB 2466 will now codify that felons incarcerated (or on post-release community supervision) in county facilities under realignment have the right to vote.
Assemblyman Marc Steinorth represents the 40th Assembly District which includes Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Highland, Loma Linda, and Redlands.