In November 2008, more than 3 million people in Washington voted in federal, state, and local elections. Truly a great year for voter turnout!
Unfortunately, there are more than 167,000 Washington citizens who are stripped of their voting rights because of our state’s unnecessarily complicated system for restoring voting rights to convicted felons. Poor people and minorities are hit the hardest, with 17& of African Americans and 10% of the voting age Latino population prevented from voting under our current laws.
The right to vote should never be tied to a person’s economic class. Currently, citizens are prevented from voting until they have repaid all of thie Legal Financial Obligations – fees and other costs associated with their sentence. Our laws impose a 12% interest rate on these debts! Many people coming out of the criminal justice system find their debt increasing despite making monthly payments. This exacerbates the problem, and assures that poor individuals will lose the right to vote permanantly.
Restoring voting rights encourages people to reconnect with their communicities and become good citizens. Research has shown that people who voted after being released are 50% less likely to reoffend than those who did not vote.
Encourage your legislature to vote “Yes!” to HB 1517 and SB 5534. Restore the right to vote!