SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – Several organizations that promote voting rights have petitioned the state’s Court of Appeal to give convicted felons who have been placed under regional supervision as part of prison realignment the right to vote.

As an effort to ease overcrowding, California transferred many nonviolent felons to County and local lockups last October. The state does not allow prisoners to vote, but realignment has created the new category of felons who serve time either in county jail or in the community, where prisoners have historically been allowed to vote. The lawsuit argues that those felons should retain their voting rights.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

The League of Women Voters is one of the petitioners, and Program Director Trudy Schafer said realignment was intended to change the way the whole criminal justice system works.

“We want the voting rights of people involved to follow that change and to let us bring them back to real full participation,” said Schafer.

The petition was filed on behalf of a woman serving three years in the San Francisco County Jail for a drug crime.

San Francisco Elections Director John Arntz and Secretary of State Debra Bowen are both named in the lawsuit.  Arntz said he doesn’t have a position on whether the woman in question has a right to vote.

“But if you think you’re eligible, then I would register,” he said. “Since this has come up, I think the counties will be seeking more information from the clerk or the court’s offices.”

Secretary of State Bowen has told all counties to treat felons under realignment as if they were on parole, making them ineligible to vote.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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