Election 2020: What is Proposition 17?

Posted at 5:12 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 16:56:31-04

In November Californians are going to decide whether felons on parole should have the right to vote in the state. 23ABC's Bayan Wang looked into the proposition behind it and he has details on both sides of the matter surrounding proposition 17.

In many societies, voting is deemed a fundamental right but it's also viewed as a privilege especially here in California, a state where felons on parole can't vote until after they've completed their parole period.

As it currently stands California is one of three states that requires people convicted of felony crimes to finish both their prison sentence and parole period before having their voting rights restored. Proposition 17 aims to allow felons to vote once they are released from prison but before they complete their parole period.

A "Yes" vote would allow that group to vote. A "No" vote aims to keep voting laws the way they are.

This isn't to be confused with probation. Felons on probation in California are allowed to vote. Prop 17 specifically deals with felons on parole.

Sam Lewis is the executive director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). When he was on parole for a felony crime years ago Lewis said he integrated back into the community. He got a job, bought a home, paid income, property, and federal taxes but was unable to do the one thing he called an inherent right.

"I contributed to my community, but I couldn't vote. I could not determine what the school system looked like that my grandchildren went to. I had no voice," said Lewis. "This is the time when we talk about changing systemic racism. This is a piece of it because the majority of the people that are on parole, the 51 to 53,000 people that have been released and completed their prison terms, are mostly people of color."

While Lewis is hoping for a "Yes" vote on Prop 17, Republican Senator Jim Nielsen opposes the proposition, stating that voting is a privilege that felony parolees must earn by completing their parole.

"It includes rapists, it includes murderers, the serious and violent offenders, not just the so-called low-level offenders. And now we're going to reward individuals by giving them the vote. That is an injustice, number one to the victims and the next of kin, who have been aggrieved by this criminal, by whatever they did," argued Nielsen.

Again, "Yes" on Prop 17 aims to allow them to vote. A "No" vote would continue to prohibit felony parolees from voting.