A constitutional amendment proposed this month, ACA 4, would restore voting rights to people disenfranchised by a prison sentence.
Currently, the California constitution bans people serving state or federal prison sentences from voting. ACA 4, introduced by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, would remove that restrictive language.
“Disenfranchisement of incarcerated people does nothing to improve the safety of our communities or encourage rehabilitation,” said Assemblymember Bryan. “All the data shows us that voting reduces recidivism, and increases the community connectivity for people. Disenfranchisement further silences the voices of already unheard Black, Brown, poor, Veteran, and Indigenous communities.”
In a 2018 survey of people in prisons and on parole, 98 percent of respondents said they would vote if they could. (Initiate Justice conducted the survey before Proposition 17 restored voting rights to more than 50,000 people on parole in California in 2020.)
Eighty-six percent of respondents said that voting would help them feel more connected to their communities.
“People serving their sentences alongside me in prison felt like they didn’t have the means to improve their environment that controlled their lives, or to contribute to their family’s wellness outside,” David Cruz, an organizer with Initiate Justice said during the press conference announcing ACA 4. “Despite what many people assume, people in prison care about the same political issues that we do outside.”
More than 90 percent of people who took Initiate Justice’s survey said they wanted to have a voice in society, contribute positively to their community, and have a say in elected leadership.
“Systemic racism and voter suppression are longstanding symptoms of anti-Black hate,” said Carmen-Nicole Cox, Director of Government Affairs, ACLU California Action. “These oppressive tactics have long co-conspired to block BIPOC communities from being able to compel their government to invest in their health, education, and economic opportunity over policing and mass incarceration.”
ACA 4 is expected to be first heard in committee on or after March 9.