More than 6 million American citizens are not permitted to vote because they have a past criminal conviction. California is better than many states in allowing formerly incarcerated people to vote once they have successfully finished probation, but nearly 180,000 California citizens, most of them people of color, are prohibited from voting only because they’re in state prison or on parole. Initiate Justice, which advocates for “people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls,” believes this is a wrong that can be righted; the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018 (VRDA), their statewide ballot initiative, would restore voting rights to these citizens and prohibit the disenfranchisement of voters because they are imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.
Help California join Maine and Vermont, currently the only states that don’t deprive felons of their right to vote even while they’re incarcerated. For more information see this article about states’ varied approaches to voting rights for felons; and read Restoring the Right to Vote, a pdf booklet by the Brennan Center for Justice.
In order to get the VRDA initiative on the November 2018 California ballot, Initiate Justice needs to get more than 550,000 signatures from registered CA voters by April 17, 2018. You can help:
- Before you begin, read complete talking points; and watch the video at this page
- This page on the Initiate Justice website has complete instructions and links for you to download and print signature-gathering petitions, or have them mailed to you
- Want to help more? Email IEB’s voting team, or join the voting-issues channel on Slack (email email@example.com for an invite to IEB’s Slack platform).
And while we’re on the subject — all of you who ARE eligible to vote, don’t squander that precious right! Please, right now:
- Are you eligible and not registered? Register online to vote in California
- Do you have to re-register? Check when you must, here, and if so, re-register!
- Haven’t checked your registration? Check it now!
- Do you know any 16- or 17- year olds? Check their eligibility, and help them pre-register online, to vote at 18!
- Then: ask everyone you know the above questions, and if they’re eligible to vote, help them follow the same steps.
Here are some other very helpful sites which can be used for people in states other than California.
- Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
- Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
- The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote