In the past decades, the clamor for felons to vote in California has gained remarkable momentum. Interestingly, felons in California can now cast their ballots — even while serving a sentence.
Meanwhile, many politicians have, all along, bet on the masses’ ignorance of their voting right to influence electoral processes. To be free from the bonds of ignorance, it is important to know the provision of the law on felon’s right to vote — and to exercise other civil rights — in California.
Basic Voting Requirements in California
Here are general requirements that qualify voters to use the ballot during the polls:
- A citizen of the United States that resides in California.
- Not less than 18 on the date of election
- Not found mentally derailed by any competent court of law.
- Not in a federal or state prison or on parole for a felony conviction.
In California, felons’ right to vote is restored — automatically — after a parole discharge, prison release, or completion of probation. Felons’ voting right is removed only if the convict currently serves time in prison or under realignment in county jail.
However, cases of a misdemeanor do not affect voting rights — they can participate in the polls.
That said, persons with felony convictions can regain their voting rights:
- If they are currently on probation — even where completion of jail terms is a probation condition
- When they have gone through the stipulated supervision
- After completion of probation
- Where they await a court verdict on violation of probation
- After community supervision, release or parole.
Felons Who Cannot Vote in California
In California, persons with the following issues are not allowed to participate in elections:
- Convicts currently serving time in federal or states prisons.
- Presently in county jail — or related correctional facility — serving a felony sentence by state prison.
- Presently awaiting transfer from a county jail to a federal or state prison for felony charges.
- Serving for a parole violation in a county jail
- Presently on supervision with the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation(CDCR).
A felon’s right to vote is reclaimed after completion of parole
According to section 290 of the California Penal Code, CDCR is allowed to reach an agreement with appropriate local authorities to keep felony convicts in county jail and similar correction facilities. However, an offender currently on a state prison sentence in county jail — or similar correctional facilities — is not eligible to vote. Visit the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s official website for more details.
If unsure of your specific sentence, discuss with your parole officer, probation officer, or correctional facility staffs.
Based on ACLU, here are more specifics about felons voting right.
Restoring A Felon’s Voting Rights in California
What can felons do to restore their voting rights in California?
Answer — nothing! Yes, there’s, practically, nothing you can do to restore a felony’s voting right. Felons get their rights restored, automatically, after parole and release from state prison.
Notwithstanding, felons who qualify to vote must re-register — or register —to vote in future elections.
ACLU, on its website, reveals that voter’s registration forms may be obtained from the county’s elections office, local post office, or from the state’s DMV. Felons are expected to fill the form, append their signature and deliver to the county elections office.
Recommended: Can a Felon vote in Florida?
The registration form can be downloaded online, signed, and dated — before delivering. Registration forms are printed in two languages — Spanish and English.
Based on individual preferences, you may complete your registration on the website of Secretary of State. After completion and submission of the online form, the form will be mailed back to you to append your signature and return.
If you choose to go with the online form, ensure you complete the registration — not later than — a month before the polls. This helps create enough time to deal with the forth and back mailing during the registration process.
After the registration, you can vote either by mail or at your local polling unit.
Voting by Mail
IF you choose your current address as your voting unit, you may apply to vote by mail. Simply contact your local elections office if unsure.
After receiving your ballot application, you are expected to fill and submit the form to the county elections office not later than seven days before an election date.
If you didn’t enter your home address as your voting unit, you may register — or re-register — and ask to vote by mail on the official website of the Secretary of States
Release from Custody
If you sent a request for a vote-by-mail ballot and the ballot delayed until you are granted bail from custody, you still stand a chance to vote. Visit the polling unit assigned to your house address or any polling unit located within the county you registered and make use of a provisional ballot.
You may need to fill a new voter registration form in the event of a change of: name, party reference, mailing address, or home address.
Things to Know About Felons’ Voting Rights In California
- Minors Can Pre register
Persons who are not yet 18 — official minimum voting age — may pre-register to vote. This provision is basically designed for people between 16 and 17 years who wish to participate in the electoral process when they turn 18. Pre-registration offers this age group an avenue to be automatically registered in the nearest future election after they turn 18. This, however, does not conflict with the 18-year-minimum-voting-age legislation.
- Can Undocumented Immigrants Vote?
Simply, NO. The first voting requirement for California residents is that the intending voter must be a United States citizen and a California resident. Recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival and Permanent Resident Status are ineligible.
Can Felons Vote in California?
Of course, voting is a right of every US adult — anyone above 18 years. Elections give the masses a common voice to say who leads them.
Many ex-convicts assume their convictions would automatically ban them from exercising franchise — this isn’t entirely right.
In some states — California inclusive — a felony convict’s right is immediately restored as soon they walk out of prison or complete their parole. Felons on probation have their voting right unscathed.
Felon’s voting rights are, however, paused for as long as they await transfer from county jail to prison.
Following the restoration of their voting right, felons are required to re-register — or register — to cast their ballot at future polls. Felons may either complete the registration process online or obtain a form from a county elections office, post office, or a local DMV.
Those who prefer the vote-by-mail option must complete their registration, not later than one month before the voting day. After registration, you can either elect your preferred candidate by mail or at your assigned polling center. Not sure of your polling place, contact your county elections office for certainty.
- Get an attorney
Are you bothered about losing your rights? Or you’re not sure if you’ve already lost them to your felony? Discuss with a seasoned criminal law attorney to tell you the available options and how to go about them.
Certificates of rehabilitation, expungement, and felony reductions are among a list of available options that can help you regain your rights in California.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.