Turning cell block to voting bloc? Valley legislators dish on giving jailed felons voting rights.

Central Valley Lawmakers are speaking out against a proposal to send ballots to prisons.

A proposed California Constitutional Amendment pitched on Wednesday by a Southern California lawmaker would give incarcerated felons the right to vote, if approved by Golden State voters . 

Support for it, however, will be hard to find among the Central Valley’s legislative delegation. 

The big picture: Asm. Issac Bryan (D–Culver City) introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 on Monday to axe the section of the state Constitution which prohibits incarcerated felons from voting until their sentence is complete. 

  • The amendment needs a two-thirds majority vote from both houses of the legislature, an advantage that Democrats currently hold. 
  • California previously passed a law to allow people with felonies on their record to vote, and a 2016 law gave people in county jails the ability to vote. 

What Bryan’s saying: In a Twitter thread, Bryan said voting reduces recidivism and increases the community connectivity for people once released. 

  • “Democracy thrives when everybody has a change to have their voice heard,” Bryan said. 

Response from the Valley: While Bryan will likely not need support from Central Valley Republicans given the Democratic supermajority, local lawmakers are not pleased with the attempt. 

  • “This is a simple matter of referring to Newton’s Third Law of Motion – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, if you commit a felony, the reaction is jail time and a loss of one’s right to vote,” said Asm. Devon Mathis (R–Porterville). “I have the utmost respect for the author. We’ve partnered on many issues in the past, and I look forward to continuing to partner with him; however, this issue is one where we fundamentally disagree. To remove the consequences of a crime, we normalize the injustice committed against the victims. Further, is it truly a crime if we remove the consequences?” 
  • Asms. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield) and Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) agreed with Mathis in their opposition to ACA 4. 
  • “When a person violates the law, there must be consequences to that crime,” Fong said. “They must serve their time and pay debt to society before they can vote again.” 
  • “I think a better question is, why would any politician want to make a voting bloc out of a cell block? While I believe in a second chance for people in prison, that second chance comes after they have served their time, not while they are still behind bars,” Patterson said. “I will be a firm no vote on ACA 4.”