The Slatest

California Drops Appeal of Court Ruling, Will Allow Tens of Thousands of Felons to Vote

California gained thousands of eligible voters this week.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

California’s secretary of state announced Wednesday that the state was dropping its appeal to a court ruling granting the right to vote to around 60,000 newly-released felons, Reuters reports:

[Secretary of State Alex] Padilla’s announcement brings to an end a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union arguing that the state was illegally denying felons released under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison realignment program the right to vote.

California law says convicted felons may vote once they have completed their sentences and paroles. The felons affected by the lawsuit had been released without parole, but because they remained under supervision of county probation departments, the state had initially said they could not vote.

Depending on which state they live in, felons might have their voting rights automatically restored after their release or have to wait years to be free of any parole or probation restrictions and then apply to have their rights restored. Florida has clamped down in recent years, with a state panel throwing out a policy restoring access to the ballot for non-violent felons who’d served their time. In Maine and Vermont, by contrast, felons are allowed to vote even while incarcerated.

The restoration of voting rights for felons is one of the many areas of public policy under debate as bipartisan support grows for criminal justice reform in America. Democrats who have advocated for sentencing reform under a social justice banner have found themselves increasingly joined by Republican allies like Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a fiscal conservative who decries spending on housing inmates as “socialism with restrained mobility.”