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April 22, 2009 2:50 PM

Bill to restore convicted felons voting rights passes Legislature

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan

It soon may be easier for thousands of convicted felons to vote again.

The Legislature today approved a measure that would restore the voting rights of offenders once they are out of prison, off probation and making a good-faith effort to pay their fines.

The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Under current law, felons can't vote until they complete their sentences -- including probation -- pay all restitution and other court fees, and petition a court to re-store their voting rights.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, sponsored House Bill 1517 because she believes that felons now have to jump through too many legal and financial hoops to get their voting rights re-established.

The House, on a 52-44 vote today, concurred with changes made in the Senate. Under the bill, voting rights could be revoked if a felon fails to make regular payments on court fees or restitution.

A spokesman for the Gregoire wouldn't say whether the governor would sign the bill, but said in an e-mail this afternoon that Gregoire "believes that the state's current system is confusing and cumbersome and needs to be changed."

The proposal could affect some 167,000 Washington citizens, according to legislative staff. The Secretary of State's Office, the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Seattle King County National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People supported the bill.

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Contributors

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Jennifer Sullivan
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Chantal Anderson
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Writes about the city of Seattle and local politics.

Mike Lindblom
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