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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Thousands of California Convicts Getting Back the Right to Vote

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Aug 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

A felony conviction in California can have repercussions that last well beyond any prison sentence served. A felon may be prevented from ever owning a firearm. It may be difficult or impossible to pursue certain careers or professions. You may be prevented from serving on a jury or serving in the armed forces. While serving time in prison or on parole, you may be prevented from voting. However, after a recent legal challenge, thousands of convicts who were under community supervision will now be able to exercise their rights to vote.

California is now reinstating voting rights for thousands of criminals who are currently serving sentences under community supervision. Under state law, some convicts still serving parole are unable to vote. The former California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, determined that “community supervision” was the same as “parole,” and therefore, convicts under community supervision were similarly prevented from voting.

In 2011, California made some changes to the criminal justice laws, in an attempt to reduce overcrowding of the state prison population. This resulted in sending some convicts to lower level centers, including county jails, and through alternative treatment programs.

The policy against allowing convicts under community supervision to vote was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of three individuals who had lost their right to vote, though the policy affected more than 60,000 convicts who were ineligible to vote under the exclusion.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge found that Secretary of State Bowen's directive effectively took away the voting rights of those thousands of convicts. Bowen appealed the judge's decision.

The current Secretary of State Alex Padilla has since withdrawn the legal challenge. According to a spokesperson for Padilla, their office found the lower court's opinion thorough, and in contentious cases, Padilla's position is to err on the side of keeping voting rights intact.

“Our vote belong not just to us, but to our communities and families,” said Dorsey Nunn of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. The ACLU, League of Women Voters and other groups have also expressed support for Padilla's decision.

Director of ACLU California's Voting Rights Project, Lori Shellenberger said “Secretary of State Padilla is bucking a national trend in which voting rights are under attack. We are thrilled that this administration has effectively said ‘No' to Jim Crow in California, and instead is fighting for the voting rights of California's most vulnerable communities.”

So far the decision is limited to California convicts under community supervision. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called voting rights restrictions on felons unnecessary, unjust and counterproductive. But nationwide, extending voting rights to convicts on parole or probation does not appear to be a popular trend. The Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, recently vetoed a bill that would have extended voting rights to thousands of convicts on parole.

Before you or a loved one has to face the restrictions on rights that come with a felony conviction, you can fight those charges to have them reduced or dismissed entirely. At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her professional legal career to defending people facing DUIs and other criminal charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of criminal defense experience, your East Bay DUI defense attorney understands how to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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