“An estimated 4.6 million people in the United States cannot vote due to a felony conviction. Washington has already taken steps to change that, having restored voting rights to incarcerated people convicted of felonies immediately upon release in 2022.
“‘If you are learning about candidates and learning about issues that are bigger than yourself, then you are on the path to rehabilitation,’ said Simmons, the first formerly incarcerated state legislator, during a committee hearing on Tuesday.
Voting should be an inalienable right, regardless of incarceration status.
“House Bill 2030 would effectively allow anyone incarcerated in a state prison to vote or sit on a jury. It only bans prisoners from voting who are convicted of a crime punishable by death. In Washington, a 2018 court decision determined capital punishment was unconstitutional, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill last April that abolished the death penalty in state law.
“There are around 13,000 people in Washington’s prisons, although not all of them are citizens. If Washington enacts HB 2030, it would join only Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia in allowing prisoners to vote.
“Advocates say voting should be an inalienable right, regardless of incarceration status, and that allowing prisoners to vote will help reduce recidivism. Studies show [incarcerated people] are less likely to reoffend if they feel invested in their communities. Preventing [incarcerated people] from voting also disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous communities in Washington, who have higher rates of incarceration.
“Simmons also said the legislation will help lawmakers see prisoners as constituents. She’s been pushing for the policy since she became a lawmaker in 2020.”
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