This Thursday, January 21, the Washington House State Government and Tribal Relations committee will vote on HB 1078. If this bill becomes law, voting rights will be restored to all Washington state citizens who have been convicted of a felony as soon as they are released from incarceration. Under current law, voting rights are only restored after the person is released from community supervision and the person has finished meeting any legal financial obligations associated with the conviction.
Information about the bill and a video recording of last week’s committee hearing can be found at the HB 1078 website. Many people testified at the hearing and all were in support of the bill. Here are some of the many reasons for their support:
- The current practice disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the total population currently on community supervision in Washington, 16% are people of color even though people of color only account for 4% of our state’s population.
- Citizens returning from incarceration have many barriers to overcome such as finding employment and housing. Studies have repeatedly shown that reducing barriers to re-entry decreases recidivism. Decreasing recidivism increases public safety. Restoring a person’s right to vote empowers that person to become and remain an active member of society.
- Many other states have recognized the value of restoring voting rights to people convicted of a felony. More than 20 other states allow people on supervision or incarcerated people to vote. Washington is the only state on the West coast who disenfranchises people on community supervision.
- If this bill becomes law, it will be much easier for our county auditors to determine who is eligible to vote. If a person shows up to register, they obviously are not incarcerated and are therefore eligible to vote. Under current law, the auditors must check state records to see if the person is on supervision or has outstanding legal financial obligations to determine if they are eligible.
- Although this was not mentioned during the hearing, our current laws restore voting rights for people convicted of a felony at the federal level as soon as they are released from a federal prison. Some argue that people convicted of a felony at the state level should also have their voting rights restored as soon as they are released from a state prison.
I encourage you to access the bill’s website and leave a comment by 8:00 am Wednesday morning. The committee will vote on Thursday and all comments must be posted at least 24 hours before the vote. In addition, if any of the following committee members are representatives of your district, I encourage you to email them directly with your opinion of this bill.
All the best,
Family Safety Foundation
To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/a/wavoices.org/d/msgid/community/009801d6edf1%24f0079ba0%24d016d2e0%24%40comcast.net.
Washington HB 1078 information [app.leg.wa.gov]