The ruling restores the right to vote to former inmates on post-release community supervision.
More than 60,000 convicts serving sentences under community supervision in California regained the right to vote Tuesday in a reversal of a decision by a former state official that prevented them from participating in elections.
The decision comes as part of a settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the state of California, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Tuesday.
The came just two days before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted into law at the peak of theU.S. Civil Rights movement in 1965.
“Secretary of State Padilla is bucking a national trend in which voting rights are under attack,” said Lori Shellenberger, Director of the ACLU of California’s Voting Rights Project. “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.”
The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of California and other rights groups accused former Secretary of State Debora Bowen of violating state law when she issued an order to local elections officials to treat those on community supervision or mandatory supervision as if they were on parole.
Despite a judge overturning the policy in 2014 and finding that the order violated California state laws, Bowen ignored the ruling and kept her directive in place. Now, Padilla let the judge's ruling stand.
“Formerly incarcerated people should not be disenfranchised and have to fight for their voting rights. Restoration of these voting rights is long overdue and the League is pleased that California is leading the way to protect voting rights for all,” said Helen Hutchinson, President of the League of Women Voters of California, which was one of the co-sponsors of the lawsuit against the Bowen.
However, lawyers say that rulings similar to Tuesday's could easily be overturned by state governments. In Maryland, Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill that would have extended the right to vote to more than 40,000 convicts.