Prop 17: Voting Rights for People on Parole


The Question: 

Should people on parole in California be allowed to register to vote and vote in elections?

The Situation: 

Currently, the California Constitution prohibits people in prison or on parole from voting.  People who are in county jail or supervised by county probation are able to vote. This ballot measure would still prohibit people in prison from voting but would allow those on parole to vote. State parole generally supervises, for a period of time, those who serve a state prison term for serious or violent crimes.  Currently, there are approximately 50,000 people on state parole.

The Proposal: 

Prop 17 amends the California Constitution to restore voting rights to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term as soon as they complete their prison sentence.  Those eligible to register to vote may also run for elective offices, if qualified.  If passed, those on parole would be able to register to vote and participate in elections.

Fiscal Effect: 

Potentially increases the number of people who can vote in elections, thus increasing the ongoing workload for county election officials.  Annual costs would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, administered at county levels.  Actual costs depend on the number of people on state parole who choose to register to vote and the specific costs of providing them ballot materials.
Creates a one-time workload for the state to update voter registration systems to reflect that people on parole may register to vote, likely resulting in a one-time state cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This amount is less than 1% of the state’s current General Fund budget.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • When people complete their prison sentences, they should be encouraged to reenter society and have a stake in their community.  Restoring voting rights does that.
  • 19 other states allow people to vote once they have successfully completed their prison sentences.  It’s time for California to do the same.
  • Nearly 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison terms pay taxes at local, state and federal levels, yet are prohibited from voting at any level of government.
Opponents Say: 
  • Prop 17 will allow violent criminals to vote before completing their sentence, including parole.
  • Parole in California is for serious and violent criminals who have victimized innocent citizens. Giving people on parole social equality before full rehabilitation will add to victims’ pain and suffering.
  • Parole is to prove rehabilitation before full liberty, including voting rights, is restored.