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January 21, 2009 1:00 PM

Felon voting rights bill introduced today

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan

A measure that would quickly return felons voting rights after their sentence is completed was introduced in the House today.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said felons now have to jump through too many legal and financial hoops to get their voting rights re-established. While state law mandates that criminals convicted of a felony lose their right to vote, a person can cast their ballot again if they pay all of their court fines and petition the court that sentenced them to re-establish their voting rights.

Darneille said that under her proposal, HB-1517, felons who have wrapped up their prison terms and probation would only have to re-register to vote. She said criminals should no longer have to wait until their legal fees are paid off, nor should they be required to petition the sentencing court.

While Darneille has introduced similar bills over the past nine sessions, she's confident in the measure this year. A companion bill is being introduced in the Senate by Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

"We have 170,000 disenfranchised people [in the state]," Darneille said.

The measure is being supported by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Andrew Garber
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