Bill May Restore Convicted Felons Voting Rights In Louisiana

Apr 12, 2018

Credit Courtesy: Voice of the Experienced

LA. CONVICTED FELON VOTING RIGHTS - Released felons in Louisiana could get voting rights restored under a bill proposed yesterday by  Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Patricia Smith. House Bill 265 would allow felons on probation and parole to vote after a five year cleansing period following their release from incarceration.  Miriam Waltzer,  a retired judge from the Orleans Parish Criminal Court explained that the original wording in Louisiana's Constitution is key to understanding the original intent of the law.  “An order of imprisonment in most people’s minds means to be in four walls, and you can’t come out,” she explained.

Miriam Waltzer is a retired judge from the Orleans Parish Criminal Court.
Credit Courtesy: La. House of Representatives

However in the 1970s, Louisiana lawmakers determined the wording ‘order of imprisonment’ should also apply to persons on probation or parole. As it stands now, the "right to vote" is suspended in Louisiana until a person's sentence is completed. Under House Bill 265, people in prison still wouldn't be able to vote while serving their sentence. 

Bruce Reilly is deputy director of Voice of the Experienced, a group of formally 

Bruce Reilly, deputy director-Voice of the Experienced and Rep. Patrica Smith (D-Baton Rouge)
Credit Courtesy: La. House of Representatives

incarcerated people that's currently challenging the state's law in court and support Representative Smith's bill.  “People who are in the community, who are part of the community, should be engaged in the community,” he explained.

If the bill were to pass, an estimated 50,000 people in Louisiana would be impacted. The  measure was reported favorably by the House and Governmental Affairs committee on a 7-2 vote...it now heads to the full house.