Washington State Weighs Giving Released Prisoners Automatic Right to Vote

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Washington state residents would be automatically eligible to vote after they are released from incarceration under proposed legislation, reports The Seattle Times.

The bill introduced last week would reverse current law barring individuals convicted of felonies from voting immediately after release. Voting rights can be restored on an individual basis, either provisionally or permanently; but if individuals violate the terms of their parole or fail to pay legal financial obligations, their voting rights can be revoked.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton), is a former incarceree—the first to win statewide office.  She argued before the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee that the current process is too complicated and often leaves those with felony convictions confused as to their eligibility status. She also said there are social and racial injustices inherent in the law.  “[It is] an honor that is directly tied to my ability to re-enter the community after incarceration and become a voter again,” Simmons said. Washington would become the 21st state along with Washington, D.C., to adopt such a policy.

Additional Reading: “Estimated 50,000 Florida Felons Voted in Election”

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