Lawmakers work on the House floor Feb. 19 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Lawmakers work on the House floor Feb. 19 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Felons’ voting rights won’t change in Washington state

Released felons still have to complete probation and pay restitution before they can cast ballots.

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Voting restrictions for people with felony convictions will remain unchanged after the Washington state Senate rejected a bill that would have restored their voting rights.

Currently, felons lose their voting rights after they are convicted and regain them once they have served their prison term and completed community custody or probation.

The bill would have allowed felons to vote after they are released from prison but before they have completed probation or paid restitution.

The Democratic senators who control the state Senate did not collect enough votes on the legislation ahead of the Wednesday deadline to pass non-fiscal policy bills, the Olympian reported Thursday.

“It’s exceptionally disappointing, given the overwhelming evidence that this helps re-entry and doesn’t affect public safety negatively at all. It seems punitive, short-sighted and counter-productive,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, the bill’s sponsor.

Supporters of the bill, which included the state Department of Corrections, have argued the legislation is consistent with efforts to reintegrate people convicted of felonies into society and to reduce their chances of re-offending, Kuderer said.

Some Republicans countered that felons should not be allowed to vote until prison time, community custody and restitution is completed.

Multiple amendments to the bill were proposed including exempting those convicted of sex offenses from getting their voting rights restored earlier than under current law and prohibiting people on community custody from voting if they were convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and were criminal street gang members or associates.

There’s no correlation between the right to vote, criminal activity and public safety, Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra.

Kuderer vowed to try to get the bill passed next year.

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