Sacramento—A proposed constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to all California citizens who are currently completing prison sentences, passed the Assembly Committee on Elections today. The proposed amendment, ACA 4, authored by Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan (D-55, Los Angeles), will be placed on the November ballot for approval by all current California voters.
"ACA 4 not only reduces recidivism, it acknowledges the racial injustice and systemic racism that underpins voter suppression in all forms," stated Assemblymember Bryan. "Voting is crucial to effective policymaking, community building, and growing equity in all aspects of the lives of Californians. It is a right and it is necessary to achieving a stronger, safer California."
ACA 4, if approved by voters, will bring California on par with Maine, Vermont, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, all of which allow people in prison to vote. Globally, nearly all Western European countries allow incarcerated people to vote, as do other countries around the world, including 28 European nations, Israel, Canada, Zimbabwe, Japan, Kenya, Peru, and others.
In today's remarks, Assemblymember Bryan pointed to a cycle of under-investment, over- policing, and over-incarceration in America that effectively works to restrict the political participation of Black, Brown, Poor, and Indigenous communities. Various methods of disenfranchisement have been enacted in states across the nation in the aftermath of Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment to restrict and suppress the voting rights of their Black citizens.
Assemblymember Bryan noted that participation in voting has been shown to support rehabilitation by fostering a sense of civic opportunity and responsibility. Speaking in support of ACA 4, Rahsaan Thomas shared how the ability to vote has impacted him as someone who was recently incarcerated, "I lost my voting right to incarceration at 19 years old. On February 8th, I paroled due to a commutation from Governor Gavin Newsom. Eight days later, I proudly registered to vote. Now it's time to restore voting rights to every American, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because inclusion makes our society united, and we are safer and stronger together."
Adrianna Griffith, who also spoke in support of ACA 4, explained how many incarcerated Californians are also survivors of abuse and other crimes, "The first time my voice was silenced was when I was experiencing abuse, the second time was when the state of California took it away and told me that I could no longer participate in the democratic process or have my voice heard when it came to matters that personally impacted me. With ACA 4, California has the opportunity to truly get behind ALL survivors and restore their democratic voice. You cannot claim to support and stand with survivors if you continue to ignore survivor voices inside prison walls."
Over 50 organizations from across California have voiced support of ACA 4 including sponsoring organizations Initiate Justice, Initiate Justice Action, ACLU California Action, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, California Black Power Network, Ella Baker Center, Jewish Center for Justice, League of Women Voters of California, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, and Pillars of the Community.