This November, Courage California urges Californians to vote “Yes” on Proposition 17, known as “Free the Vote.”
Prop. 17 is a Constitutional amendment that would restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated Californians who have completed their prison term.
Currently, California’s constitution prohibits people with felony convictions from voting while they are in prison or on parole. This ballot measure would amend the state constitution to allow Californians, who have completed their prison term, to participate in our democracy.
Felony disenfranchisement in California is rooted deep in our history. But as California has moved away from tough-on-crime laws in recent years — our state constitution still blocks Californians on parole from voting, even though they have completed their prison sentence. According to “Yes on 17,” nearly 50,000 Californians currently living in and contributing to their communities are denied the opportunity to vote for the representatives and shape the policies that impact them, their family, and community.
That is 50,000 Californians, who despite having “paid their debt to society,” have NO say in California’s future representatives and policies, while living in our communities. Today, as California and our nation face histories of systemic racism, it is imperative communities that have been ravaged by unjust policies and sentences are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box. By denying Californians who have completed their sentences, we are exacerbating voter suppression.
To expect a population of Californians, which is disproportionately made up of people of color, to reenter society and live successfully within our communities — without any say on the policies that directly impact them — simply does not make sense. If we want to create equality within California’s various systems, such as justice, education ,and health, democracy needs everyone!
In 2017, Black Californians made up 28% of all prison populations despite only making up 6% of California’s total population. With an astonishing and horrifying incarceration rate at 8 times the rate of white Californians, it is clear that the disenfranchisement of parolees is disenfranchisement of Black voters.
Want to break a community? Take away their right to vote and create policies that negatively impact them. Want to make a community? Give them the right to vote and listen to their voices at the ballot box.
“When a 50-year-old formerly incarcerated person was asked at the rally whether he had ever been allowed to vote, he answered no. ‘I went to prison when I was 17-years-old, and I would love to vote for my representation, so I can change the way that they affect my life and my purpose in life,’ he said,” Advocates Say Vote YES On Prop. 16 And Prop. 17 To Support Black Lives
The Election Integrity Project® California (EIPCa) is the main opponent of Prop. 17, which has also voiced opposition to vote-by-mail, reducing the voting age, and has initiated various related lawsuits, petitions, and letters.
With Courage, We Can Free the Vote and right this injustice by restoring voting rights to Californians returning home from prison. Vote Yes on Prop. 17!