Large Numbers of Prisoners Registering to Vote Legally in California

The worn bars in the cell block are seen at Alcatraz Island, a 22-acre rocky outcrop situated 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay, August 11, 2011. Seventy-seven years ago on August 11, 1934, a group of federal prisoners classified as "most dangerous" arrived at the new high-security penitentiary designed …
TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Newport Beach, CA

Large numbers of U.S. citizens convicted and serving time in county jails will be legally eligible to vote under California law in the November 2018 mid-term elections.

California’s constitution specifically denies voting rights to anyone in prison or on parole from prison. But Gov. Jerry Brown signed a criminal justice “realignment” law (AB 109) in 2011 that redirected state prisoners convicted of drug trafficking, burglary, auto theft, embezzlement, and non-serious, non-violent, or non-sexual crimes to serve their sentences in county jails.

Transferred inmates filed a successful lawsuit in 2014 against the California Secretary of State, Scott v. Bowen, for the restoration of their voting rights, based on the state constitution not specifically using the word “jail.”

Democrat California Secretary of State Alex Padilla withdrew the state’s appeal in 2016 and reinstated voting rights to 60,000 convicted criminals, who had been released from prison and were living in their communities under local criminal justice supervision.

State Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) successfully led the effort to pass AB 2466 in 2016 to expand the number of criminals allowed to vote under Scott v. Bowen. 

Senior Vice President Daniel Zingale of the progressive California Endowment endorsed the rehabilitation of voting rights, and told the Los Angeles Times: “Mass disenfranchisement for minor offenses is a tragic legacy of the Jim Crow era that disproportionately affects and diminishes the power of communities of color.”

The non-profit and non-partisan Campaign Legal Center (CLC) claims that “up to 17 million Americans with prior convictions could register to vote today.” CLC has brought its nationwide “Restore Your Vote” campaign to each of California’s 58 counties this year. CLC staff work directly with county sheriffs to educate inmates that many of their felony convictions would still allow them to vote in California.

Padilla is trying to ease logistical problems for jailed inmates by allowing them to use their home addresses to register for vote by mail, and receive their paperwork and ballots where they are detained. The only application eligibility restriction is the requirement that the form must be completed and returned to the inmate’s home county election office within 7 days of the election.

With the only Californians that cannot vote being state and federal prison inmates, parolees, noncitizens, and people deemed mentally incompetent, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last Thursday that Alameda County’s public defenders’ office and social workers had registered 425 county jail inmates to vote this year.

Breitbart News was unable to find any consolidated number for new registrations under AB 2466. But with an average of 84,000 Californians in local jails and about 200,000 spending some time in jail during 2017, the number of new voters may be substantial.

The last day for voter registration in California is Monday, Oct. 22.

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