Newly proposed bill leaves controversy over voting rights for inmates

Katherine Futch, Editor in Chief

Inmate and felon voting rights are once again under debate, with Minnesota passing HF 28 earlier this year. This bill restores the right to vote for individuals convicted of a felony upon completion of any term of incarceration imposed.  

The right to vote while incarcerated has been an ongoing debate. In 2020, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and former president Donald Trump argued over this matter. Sanders was in support of the right to vote for inmates —– even those who had committed the most heinous of crimes.  

In 2020, Sanders expressed his views on the matter at a CNN Town Hall.

“I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” Sanders said.“Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away, – you’re running down a slippery slope.” 

In light of this new bill passing in Minnesota, other states are revisiting their voting rights policies. California is proposing a new constitutional amendment to reinstate prisoners’ voting rights. If passed, California would join Washington, D.C., Maine and Vermont as the only states and territories where felons never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated. 

The bill was introduced in early February by assembly member Isaac Bryan, who said it was time to open voting to all citizens of California, even if they are imprisoned.  

Bryan shared his thoughts in an interview with “The Associated Press.”

“I think we’re having a deep discussion on what it means to have voting as a right for every citizen,” Bryan said. 

This amendment is currently under review. In order for it to be added to the sState’s constitution, two-thirds of each chamber of the state legislature must vote yes for the bill to appear on a ballot as a proposition. Then, voters have to approve it by a simple majority for it to be added as a constitutional amendment. 

Currently, Georgia, along with 14 other states, revokes the right to vote for felons who are currently serving their sentence. That includes parole, probation, fines, fees and restitution. However, when a sentence is completed, an automatic restoration of the right to vote occurs.  

Liz Newlin, a junior mass communication major, aspires to attend law school upon her graduation. She believes that Georgia’s felon voting policy should be implemented nationwide.  

“When someone has completed their sentence, they are given the majority of the rights back,” Newlin said. “I think they should be treated as functioning members of society.”  

However, Newlin does not agree with the proposition of California’s new amendment and does not believe it will be implemented.  

“I strongly believe that California’s bill will not pass,” Newlin said. “I think that if someone is convicted of a crime, it is because they did something to damage another person, whether that is physically or financially, or in some other way. While in prison, I don’t think they should have the right to vote like a law-abiding citizen.”