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Voting Rights for Ex-Prisoners: Secretary of State Adopts FCWPP Language for Voter Affidavit


Jan. 2012: Through persistent advocacy, FCWPP has finally been instrumental in convincing the office of the Secretary of State to revise the language on the ballot-envelope affidavit that has been misleading for ex-prisoners — adopting essentially the language that FCWPP has recommended.


Success in changing public policy often requires monitoring the implementation of legislation, as well as working to pass it in the first place.  In 2009, lobbying by FCWPP and our allied organizations helped pass into law the restoration of voting rights to ex-prisoners.  Yet until now the affidavit on the ballot envelope, which every voter must sign under penalty of perjury, continued to include the statement that “I am not ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction.”  This statement gave the misleading impression that anyone convicted of a felony could not vote, contrary to the 2009 law.


Under the recent decision from the Secretary of State the declaration will be changed – starting with the 2012 Primary — to a simple factual statement as proposed by FCWPP: “I am not under the authority of the Department of Corrections for a Washington felony conviction.” The law states that voting rights are restored after a prisoner is no longer under of the authority of the DOC.


For over two years, FCWPP lobbied the Secretary of State’s office, pointing out the discrepancy between the law and the ballot statement and advocating the language change.  In addition to correspondence and meeting with the Assistant Director of Elections, FCWPP drafted a letter to the Secretary of State and brought the issue to the attention of Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, who obtained the signatures of twelve members of the State Legislature in addition to that of FCWPP.  It appears that our arguments carried the day … although it took a while before our contention that the ballot declaration was misleading was recognized.

FCWPP hopes that this change in the language in the affidavit will lead to increased numbers of ex-prisoners fulfilling their right to vote as restored in the 2009 law.  This symbol of participation in society by ex-prisoners is one step toward reintegration as productive citizens.  How appropriate that this news came to us on Martin Luther King Day!

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