FCWPP Alert: Please contact your State Senator to support Voting Rights Restoration without amendments
Sen. Mike Carrell will likely offer an amendment to the Voting Rights Restoration bill (HB 1517) specifying that voting rights would be revoked if an ex-prisoner failed to keep up payment for restitution. Despite all that Sen. Carrell has done in the past to help ex-prisoners rebuild their life in society, this amendment is highly undesirable because:
1) The amendment would destroy the “clear bright line” concerning who can and cannot vote. This clear bright line is a principal rationale for the bill and the reason that the Secretary of State supports the bill.
2) There is legal opinion (from the ACLU) that the amendment’s provision would be unconstitutional.
3) The amendment would be discriminatory against those with less means.
The Voting Rights Restoration bill (HB 1517) is expected to come before the State Senate for a vote soon. We urge you to contact your Senator and ask him/her to vote for HB 1517 but against any amendments, including that by Sen. Carrell.
Contact information is available at http://leg.wa.gov and you can call theLEGISLATIVE HOTLINE: 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message.
Also, if you can, contact the members of the leadership most responsible for seeing that the bill is actually brought to a vote:
Sen. Lisa Brown (Majority Leader): (360) 786-7604 firstname.lastname@example.orgSen. Tracey Eide (Majority Floor Leader): (360) email@example.com
Here are further talking points, repeated from the last alert. If possible, speak from personal experience. But you might mention that most states including Oregon and California automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons. You can point out that the current requirement in Washington State that all Legal Financial Obligations must be paid before registering to vote is discriminatory against persons with less resources — including most ex-prisoners who are struggling to get housing and a job — and is thus akin to the discredited poll tax.
The right to vote in a democracy should not be dependent on the payment of monetary debts. Voting rights are significant in restoring ex-prisoners’ belief that they have a stake in a democratic society — an important step in becoming productive citizens and not returning to prison.Thanks for all your help!
Sam Merrill, Clerk, Legislative Committee Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy