Release Date:  March 8, 2012
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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A lawsuit which seeks to give voting rights to felons incarcerated in county jails is an effort to undermine the state Constitution and the rights of law-abiding Californians, according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco on Wednesday by a coalition including the League of Women Voters and the ACLU, claims that the constitutional provision which denies the right to vote, to felons imprisoned or on parole, does not apply to what they call low-level felons who can no longer be sent to state prison under Governor Brown’s prison Realignment law.

The California Constitution requires the Legislature to deny the vote to persons “imprisoned or on parole for conviction of a felony.”

“The purpose of this constitutional provision is to keep criminals convicted of crimes serious enough to warrant time behind bars from voting,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “The fact that the Governor and the Legislature have forced California counties to incarcerate these criminals in local jails does not reduce the seriousness of their crimes or the prohibition on voting, which is one of the consequences of committing a felony,” he added.

The Foundation noted that among the so-called low-level criminals the suit proponents want to allow to vote are criminals convicted on one or more occasions of car theft, commercial burglary, pimping, drunk driving causing death or injury, assault and battery, forcing children into prostitution, forgery, carrying a concealed weapon in concert with a gang-related or drug-related crime, selling or transporting illegal assault weapons, identity theft, making or possessing a weapon of mass destruction, mortgage or real estate fraud, and hate crimes.  A full list of felonies no longer eligible for state prison begins on page 79 of this document:

Prosecutors’ Analysis of the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment

“These are not folks that most law-abiding Californians want to meet at the polls on election day,” said Rushford.  “This is another example of the unintended consequences of the hastily adopted Realignment law passed through the Legislature and signed by the Governor last year,” he added.

CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.
Foundation arguments have helped to win five United States Supreme Court decisions benefitting law enforcement and public safety during the Court’s previous term.