Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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State of California
Proposition 17 — Voting Rights for People Who Have Completed Their Prison Term Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment - Majority Approval Required

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RESTORES RIGHT TO VOTE AFTER COMPLETION OF PRISON TERM. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. 

Restores voting rights upon completion of prison term to persons who have been disqualifed from voting while serving a prison term.

Fiscal Impact: Annual county costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, for voter registration and ballot materials. One-time state costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for voter registration cards and systems. 

Put on the Ballot by the Legislature 

What is this proposal?

Easy Voter Guide — Summary for new and busy voters

Information provided by The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The way it is now

After someone ends their prison term for a serious crime, they may spend time “on parole” when they get out. People on parole must follow certain rules, such as meeting regularly with their parole officer. Parole usually lasts three years. Around 50,000 people are on parole in California. People on parole are not currently allowed to vote.

What if it passes?

Prop 17 would allow people on parole to register to vote and vote in elections. Certain people on parole would be allowed to run for public office.

Budget effect

Prop 17 would update the state’s voting system. This would cost the state a one-time payment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Counties might spend more money sending out voter information or counting ballots. This would cost counties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year statewide.

People FOR say

  • People on parole pay taxes. They should be allowed to vote, as well.
  • Parole is a time for people to rebuild their lives; voting helps people on parole feel more connected to their communities and increases public safety.

People AGAINST say

  • Parole is a time for serious and violent criminals to prove that they have changed.
  • When people get out of prison, they should complete parole before being allowed to vote.

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The Question

 Should people on parole in California be allowed to register to vote and vote in elections?

The Situation

Currently, the California Constitution prohibits people in prison or on parole from voting. People who are in county jail or supervised by county probation are able to vote. This ballot measure would still prohibit people in prison from voting but would allow those on parole to vote. State parole generally supervises, for a period of time, those who serve a state prison term for serious or violent crimes. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 people on state parole.

The Proposal

Prop 17 amends the California Constitution to restore voting rights to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term as soon as they complete their prison sentence. Those eligible to register to vote may also run for elective offices, if qualified. If passed, those on parole would be able to register to vote and participate in elections.

Fiscal effect

  • Potentially increases the number of people who can vote in elections, thus increasing the ongoing workload for county election officials. Annual costs would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, administered at county levels. Actual costs depend on the number of people on state parole who choose to register to vote and the specific costs of providing them ballot materials.
  • Creates a one-time workload for the state to update voter registration systems to reflect that people on parole may register to vote, likely resulting in a one- time state cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This amount is less than 1% of the state’s current General Fund budget.

Supporters say

  • When people complete their prison sentences, they should be encouraged to reenter society and have a stake in their community. Restoring voting rights does that.
  • 19 other states allow people to vote once they have successfully completed their prison sentences. It’s time for California to do the same.
  • Nearly 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison terms pay taxes at local, state and federal levels, yet are prohibited from voting at any level of government.

Opponents say

  • Prop 17 will allow violent criminals to vote before completing their sentence, including parole.
  • Parole in California is for serious and violent criminals who have victimized innocent citizens. Giving people on parole social equality before full rehabilitation will add to victims’ pain and suffering.
  • Parole is to prove rehabilitation before full liberty, including voting rights, is restored.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

A YES vote on this measure means: People on state parole who are U.S. citizens, residents of California, and at least 18 years of age would be able to vote, if they register to vote.

NO vote means

A NO vote on this measure means: People on state parole would continue to be unable to vote in California.

Summary

Source: California Attorney General - Official Voter Guide p. 30

OFFICIAL TITLE AND SUMMARY
PREPARED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

PROPOSITION 17.
RESTORES RIGHT TO VOTE AFTER COMPLETION OF PRISON TERM. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. 

  • Amends state constitution to restore voting rights to persons who have been disqualified from voting while servinga prison term as soon as they complete their prison term.
  • Increased one-time state costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to update voter registration cards and systems.

SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT: 

  • Increased annual county costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, for voter registration and ballot materials. 

FINAL VOTES CAST BY THE LEGISLATURE ON ACA 6 (PROPOSITION 17) 
(RESOLUTION CHAPTER 24, STATUTES OF 2020)

Senate: Ayes 28 Noes 9 
Assembly: Ayes 54 Noes 19  

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=30

Background

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 30-31

BACKGROUND

People in Prison or on Parole Are Not Allowed to Vote. The State Constitution allows most U.S. citizens who are residents of California and at least 18 years of age to vote, if they register to vote. (Under current state law, people who are registered to vote are also allowed to run for elective offices they are qualified for.) People eligible to register to vote include those who are in county jail or supervised by county probation in the community. However, the State Constitution prevents some people from registering to vote, including those in state prison or on state parole. (People are generally supervised in the community on state parole for a period of time after they serve a state prison term for a serious or violent crime. Currently, there are roughly 50,000 people on state parole.)

County and State Agencies Have Voting-Related Workload. County election officials manage most elections in California. As part of this work, these officials keep lists of registered voters and cancel the registration of anyone not allowed to vote—including anyone in state prison or on state parole. In addition, these officials provide ballot materials to registered voters. Some state agencies also have voting-related workload. For example, the Secretary of State provides voter registration cards and operates an electronic voter registration system.

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=30

 

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide p. 31

PROPOSAL

Allows People on State Parole to Register to Vote. Proposition 17 changes the State Constitution to allow people on state parole to register to vote, thereby allowing them to vote. (Because current state law allows registered voters to run for elective offices, this measure would result in people on state parole being able to do so as well, if they meet existing qualifications such as not having been convicted of perjury or bribery.)

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=31

Financial effect

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide p. 31

FISCAL EFFECTS

Increased Ongoing County Costs. Proposition 17 would increase the number of people who can register to vote and vote in elections. This would increase ongoing workload for county election officials in two main ways. First, election officials would have to process the voter registrations of people on state parole who register to vote. Second, election officials would have to send ballot materials to people on state parole who register to vote. We estimate that the annual county costs for this workload would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide. The actual cost would depend on the number of people on state parole who choose to register to vote and the specific costs of providing them ballot materials during an election. 

Increased One-Time State Costs. Proposition 17 would create one-time workload for the state to update voter registration cards and systems to reflect that people on state parole could register to vote. We estimate that this workload would result in one-time state costs likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This amount is less than 1 percent of the state’s current General Fund budget.

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=31

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

Prop. 17 restores a citizen's right to vote after they finish their prison term—aligning California with other states. A recent parole commission report found that citizens who complete their prison terms and have their voting rights restored are less likely to commit future crimes. Yes on Prop. 17.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR:
Dana Williamson
Free the Vote, Yes on Prop. 17
1787 Tribute Road, Suite K
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 382-4686
YesonProp17@gmail.com
Yeson17.vote

— Source: California Secretary of State / Official Voter Information Guide p. 9

Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF PROPOSITION 17 

Proposition 17 is simple—it restores a person's right to vote upon completion of their prison term.

• When a person completes their prison sentence, they should be encouraged to reenter society and have a stake in their community. Restoring their voting rights does that. Civic engagement is connected to lower rates of recidivism. When people feel that they are valued members of their community, they are less likely to return to prison.

• 19 other states allow people to vote once they have successfully completed their prison sentence. It's time for California to do the same.

• A Florida study found that people who have completed their prison sentences and had their voting rights restored were less likely to commit crimes in the future.

• Nearly 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison sentences pay taxes at the local, state, and federal levels. However, they are not able to vote at any level of government.

PROP. 17 WILL HAVE REAL LIFE IMPACTS—STORIES FROM CALIFORNIANS WHO HAVE COMPLETED THEIR SENTENCES

After a parole board granted Richard his freedom, he was shocked to learn that he still could not cast a vote in California. Over the last 20 years, Richard has become what he describes as "a man built for others"—helping develop a drug and alcohol counseling program while still in prison and advocating for better criminal justice policies. "I work hard, serve my community, pay taxes, give back, and I am still a citizen of this country," Richard said. "I believe that qualifies me to have the right to vote again."

Andrew is a Navy veteran who served his country but developed a drinking problem and made big mistakes that led to prison. He earned parole by working toward his rehabilitation, and now that his prison sentence is completed, he's building a new life as a veteran learning to contribute to his community. Andrew says, "I believe in working hard for what you get in life, and I believe that I've earned the right to vote so I can be a full member of my community."

YES ON PROPOSITION 17

Parole is intended to be a period of reintegration into the community. People on parole who have completed their prison sentences raise families, hold jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to society in every other way. Restoring a person's voting eligibility removes stigma and helps strengthen their connection to the community.

Yeson17.vote #FreetheVote

CAROL MOON GOLDBERG, President
League of Women Voters of California

JAY JORDAN, Executive Director
Californians for Safety and Justice

KEVIN MCCARTY, Assemblymember
Prop. 17 Author

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=32

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 42-43

Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

Vote NO on Proposition 17 because it:

  • Amends California's Constitution to grant violent criminals the right to vote before completing their sentence including parole.
  • Allows criminals convicted of murder, rape and child molestation to vote before paying their debt to society.
  • Denies justice to crime victims.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AGAINST:
Ruth Weiss
Election Integrity Project California
27943 Seco Canyon Rd. #521
Santa Clarita, CA 91350
ruthweiss@eip-ca.com
www.eip-ca.com

— Source: California Secretary of State / Official Voter Information Guide p. 9

Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

ARGUMENT AGAINST PROPOSITION 17

PROPOSITION 17 WILL ALLOW CRIMINALS CONVICTED OF MURDER, RAPE, SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST CHILDREN, KIDNAPPING, ASSAULT, GANG GUN CRIMES AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING TO VOTE BEFORE COMPLETING THEIR SENTENCE INCLUDING PAROLE.

In 1974, California voters approved restoring the right to vote to convicted felons once they have completed their sentences (including parole). More recently, California's prison reform measures have moved all but the most vicious criminals out of prisons and into local jails. People convicted of nonviolent felonies like car theft or drug dealing are incarcerated in county jails and have the right to vote while serving their sentence. For them there is no parole.

PAROLE IN CALIFORNIA IS FOR SERIOUS AND VIOLENT CRIMINALS.

Criminals in prison have been convicted of murder or manslaughter, robbery, rape, child molestation or other serious and violent crimes and sex offenses. They have victimized innocent, law-abiding citizens who are condemned for life to revisit those crimes in every nightmare. Certain sounds, smells and everyday experiences will always return them mentally and emotionally to the scene of the crime, and for them there is no end to their sentence. Knowing that their victimizers would have social equality with them before they have been fully rehabilitated simply adds to their lifelong pain and misery.

PAROLE IS TO PROVE REHABILITATION BEFORE FULL LIBERTY, INCLUDING VOTING RIGHTS, IS RESTORED.

Offenders released from PRISON after serving a term for a serious or violent felony are required to complete parole (usually three years) as part of their sentences. Parole is an adjustment period when violent felons prove their desire to adjust to behaving properly in a free society. Their every move is monitored and supervised by a trained state officer. If the state does not trust them to choose where to live or travel, with whom to associate and what jobs to do, it MUST NOT trust them with decisions that will impact the lives and finances of all other members of society.

MOST PAROLEES STUMBLE AND 50% ARE CONVICTED OF NEW CRIMES. 

Unfortunately, about half of parolees commit new crimes within three years of release. Clearly, they are not ready to join the society of law-abiding citizens. Rewards and privileges in life must be earned and deserved. Giving violent criminals the right to vote before they have successfully completed their full sentence, which INCLUDES A PERIOD OF PAROLE, is like giving students a high school diploma at the end of tenth grade. It makes no sense, and hurts their future and all of society. 

JUSTICE DEMANDS A NO VOTE ON PROPOSITION 17. 

Crime victims deserve justice. Granting violent criminals the right to vote before the completion of their sentence is not justice. Offenders deserve justice as well. Their self-respect depends upon knowing that they have made full restitution for their crimes and have earned a second chance. Californians deserve a justice system where offenders pay for their crimes, prove their rehabilitation, and only then are welcomed back into civil society.

Proposition 17 is NOT justice.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 17

HARRIET SALARNO, Founder
Crime Victims United of California

JIM NIELSEN, Chairman
California Board of Prison Terms (Ret.)

RUTH WEISS, Vice President
Election Integrity Project California

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=33

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 42-43

Replies to Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF PROPOSITION 17

Proponents claim that Proposition 17 will restore a convicted felon's voting rights "upon completion of their prison sentence." THIS IS FALSE.

THE TRUTH: In California, parole is a legally part of the prison sentence, and a convicted felon must successfully complete parole upon release from incarceration in order to have served their sentence and have their voting rights restored. Proposition 17 will eliminate this critical requirement.

Proponents do not tell you that 30 states require more than the completion of prison incarceration, before a felon's voting rights are restored. Most require the completion of parole while some require the addition of executive action.

While proponents highlight two stories about released criminals, "Richard" and "Andrew," they don't share with you their criminal histories—as if burglars, armed robbers, murderers and child molesters are all the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

THE TRUTH: For every "Richard" or "Andrew" there is a "Robert" or "Scott" who commits a violent felony while on parole. Proposition 17 restores voting rights before felons complete this critical parole sentence.

Parole is the adjustment period when violent felons prove they are no longer a violent threat to innocent citizens living in a civil society. Their every move is monitored and supervised by a trained state officer.

BOTTOM LINE: PROPOSITION 17 WILL ALLOW CRIMINALS CONVICTED OF MURDER, RAPE, CHILD MOLESTATION, AND OTHER SERIOUS AND VIOLENT CRIMES TO VOTE BEFORE COMPLETING THEIR SENTENCE INCLUDING PAROLE.

Proposition 17 is not justice. VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 17

HARRIET SALARNO, Founder
Crime Victims United of California

JIM NIELSEN, California State Senator

RUTH WEISS, Vice President
Election Integrity Project California

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=32

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 42-43

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT AGAINST PROPOSITION 17 

PROP. 17 opponents are using scare tactics to try and stop you from fixing a nearly 50-year-old, out-of-date voting policy.

THE FACTS:

• Prop. 17 will simply restore a citizen's right to vote upon completion of their prison term aligning California with 19 other states that already do the same.

• After a similar law was changed in Florida, a parole commission study found that citizens who have completed their prison sentences and had their voting rights restored were less likely to commit crimes in the future.

• Parole is intended to be a period of reintegration into the community. Citizens on parole who have completed their prison sentences raise families, hold jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to society in every other way.

• Nearly 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison sentences pay taxes at the local, state and federal levels and yet, are not able to vote at any level of government.

DON'T BELIEVE OPPONENTS AND THEIR SCARE TACTICS. DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS SUPPORT PROP. 17

• More than two thirds of the state legislature—Democrats and Republicans, supported asking California voters to consider Prop. 17.

• Prop. 17 does nothing to change anyone's prison term including those convicted of serious and violent crimes.

VOTE YES ON PROP. 17!

CAROL MOON GOLDBERG, President
League of Women Voters of California

JAY JORDAN, Executive Director
Californians for Safety and Justice

ABDI SOLTANI, Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—Northern California 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=33

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 42-43

Read the proposed legislation

Proposed legislation

This amendment proposed by Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 of the 2019–2020 Regular Session (Resolution Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) expressly amends the California Constitution by amending sections thereof; therefore, existing provisions proposed to be deleted are printed in strikeout type and new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ARTICLE II

First—That Section 2 of Article II thereof is amended to read:

SEC. 2. (a) A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.

(b) An elector disqualifed from voting while serving a state or federal prison term, as described in Section 4, shall have their right to vote restored upon the completion of their prison term.

Second—That Section 4 of Article II thereof is amended to read:

SEC. 4. The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualifcation of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony.

Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Proposition 17

Organizations (45)

Who gave money?

Contributions

Yes on Proposition 17

Total money raised: $847,007
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.

No on Proposition 17

No data currently available.
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.

Below are the top 10 contributors that gave money to committees supporting or opposing the ballot measures.

Yes on Proposition 17

1
Quillin, Patty
$250,000
2
Pritzker, Susan
$200,000
3
American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
$111,841
4
California Nurses Association
$30,000
4
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
$30,000
4
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters
$30,000
5
California Association of Realtors
$25,000
5
Delaney, M. Quinn
$25,000
5
SEIU Local 2015
$25,000
6
John Edward (Jed) York & Affiliated Entities, Including the Forty Niners Football Company LLC (Rahul Chandok)
$20,000
6
Secure Democracy
$20,000

No on Proposition 17

More information about contributions

Yes on Proposition 17

By State:

California 96.29%
District of Columbia 2.39%
New York 1.22%
Ohio 0.06%
Other 0.04%
96.29%

By Size:

Large contributions (98.68%)
Small contributions (1.32%)
98.68%

By Type:

From organizations (39.66%)
From individuals (60.34%)
39.66%60.34%

No on Proposition 17

More information

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