Inslee signs bill restoring voting rights to parolees in Washington state
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill Wednesday restoring voting rights to nonincarcerated parolees in the state.
H.B. 1078 also applies to those convicted of a felony in courts outside of Washington.
The legislation, which goes into effect in January, also requires the state to notify felons of the restoration of voter fights prior to their release from confinement.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Inslee thanked the sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Tarra Simmons (D), who was incarcerated herself before becoming a lawyer and being elected to the legislature in November.
“Regaining the right to vote, after having lost so many things, meant more to me than most people could imagine,” Simmons said in a statement. “This might seem a small thing to some people, but it’s a giant step for civil rights and it’s one that will give others what it gave me: a belief that I mattered, that I was once again a member of society, and that my freedom was worth preserving at all costs.”
Washington is the 20th state to restore voting rights to felons upon their release from prison, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The center estimates that the bill will restore voting rights to 20,000 people.
Its passage comes as GOP-led states move to restrict voting rules after some disappointing results in the 2020 elections, leading to backlash from Democrats, corporate America and voting rights advocates.
Bills restricting early or absentee voting have been passed or taken up by states including Georgia and Texas.
Only a few states thus far have moved to expand access to voting, counter to the trend.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Wednesday signed a bill that would establish three days of early voting, place voting centers for more in-person voting options and open a digital portal for voters to register and apply for ballots.
“While other states are restricting the right to vote, I’m glad that Washington, here is expanding our access to democracy,” Inslee said Wednesday.
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