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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
Fisher Forde Media 

Campaigning door-to-door at CCI?

The Forde Files No. 190

 

May 25, 2019

Policy positions by several presidential candidates have re-awakened a push in California to grant prison inmates and parolees the right to vote.

Currently in California, felons in prison (not jail) or on parole may not vote.

An organization called Initiate Justice failed to get an initiative on the 2018 ballot that would have restored the right to vote to approximately 162,000 people in state prisons and on parole (The California Right to Vote of Convicted Felons Initiative). The organization now is campaigning for Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 and Assembly Bill 646, called the “Free The Vote Act,” which, according to their website, “would restore voting rights to every person on parole in California…Nearly 50,000 people on parole in California are working, paying taxes and positively contributing to their communities, yet they are unable to vote at any level of government. This system operates as ‘taxation without representation,’ which is antithetical to the founding of this country.”

The California Secretary of State website, on the page “Voting Rights: Persons with a Criminal History,” says that a person who has served time and successfully completed parole can regain the right to vote.

“Once you are done with parole, your right to vote is restored,” the Secretary of State says. “but you must re-register online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov or by filling out a paper voter registration card.”

A person who is serving a misdemeanor sentence may vote. Those who are serving jail time as a condition of probation, serving a felony jail sentence or awaiting trial also may vote.

If incarcerated felons were able to vote, how would that affect the city of Tehachapi, 1/3 of whose population resides within the walls of the California Correctional Institution (CCI) in Cummings Valley? Other California cities that are adjacent to or include prisons ask the same question.

The city of Tehachapi annexed CCI, a supermax state prison with five levels of security, 1,700 employees, 1,650 acres and zero residents who are not inmates, in 1998. The prison is 10.3 miles from the city proper.

The official population of Tehachapi, as reported in the 2010 census, is 14,414. The 2019 Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance Economic Round Table Reports puts the city’s current population at 14,638. Both those numbers include the inmate population at CCI.

The total number of registered voters in the city of Tehachapi as of May 17, according to the Kern County Elections Office, was 4,656. CCI belongs in Tehachapi election District Five, which has 1,182 registered voters. The prison population fluctuates above and below 3,000 (The official capacity is 2,783). If the inmates voted in a local election, they could swamp the voters in District Five at 3 to 1 and dominate city elections.

That scenario is not likely to transpire, however, as inmates who are eligible to vote under current law do so via absentee ballot based on their place of residence prior to being incarcerated.

 
 

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