Free The Vote
by Nicolette Madonna
Proposition 17 will allow people on parole to have voting rights
Voting rights suppression has regained national attention, causing California to introduce Proposition 17, a measure that will allow people on parole, or supervision, to vote. As of 2020, 50,000 Californians have served their prison sentences and have returned home, on parole, without any voting rights. In the United States democracy, the right to vote is crucial and California is restricting that right. Proposition 17 would restore voting rights to 50,00 Californians and remove voting restrictions to all future elections.
Research shows that the U.S criminal justice system disproportionately polices communities of color. As a matter of fact, The Sentencing Project submitted a report to the U.N on racial disparities in the U.S, stating: “The rise of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans.” The report continues to admonish the U.S criminal justice system and the racial biases that exist and will continue to exist if left unattended. The Sentencing Project also assessed disenfranchisement policies for those with a criminal record and found that “Felony disenfranchisement policies have a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” and, “The dramatic growth of the U.S. prison population in the last 40 years has led to record levels of disenfranchisement, with an estimated 6.1 million voters banned from the polls today.” Californians have the opportunity to overturn these discriminatory laws by voting yes on Proposition 17.
Organizations nationwide are mobilizing to address racial disparities, in response to systemic racism in the criminal justice system. According to Initiate Justice, an organization that advocates for people impacted by mass incarceration, ACA 6 and AB 646 have passed through the California legislature and are now on the ballot as Proposition 17. This will amend the California Constitution that “constitutionally” disqualifies electors who have completed their prison sentence, and now contribute to society. Initiate Justice works alongside elected officials and local leaders to change laws that infringe on the rights of people with a criminal record. Their vision for voting equality begins with voters’ yes on Proposition 17.
Unlike any opportunity Americans have to participate in their democracy, the lives of countless individuals will be directly impacted by voters’ willingness to act. Proposition 17 will ensure that 50,000 voices can be heard, projected, and represented at the government level. This measure will restore and protect voting rights for many individuals with a criminal record and align ourselves with 19 other progressive states. Every vote counts, so their vote should be counted.