VOTING RIGHTS BILL - Anyone in prison, or on probation or parole in Louisiana is legally prevented from voting until the end of their sentence. Yesterday day, the Senate passed a bill by that would make anyone who’s been out of prison for five years eligible to vote. Representative Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), who drafted the bill told Public Radio WRKF that she has been trying to pass this reform for years.
"These folks just want to go into a ballot box, pull the lever and be able to vote for the impact on their lives," explained Smith.
Senator JP Morrell (D-New Orleans) presented the bill on the Senate floor. "The recidivism rate in Louisiana for criminal offenses is very high," said Morrell. "So these are people who are the success stories, who left prison and didn’t go back."
The bill got high profile support earlier this week from New Orleans Saints players Demario Davis and Benjamin Watson. They sent a letter urging lawmakers to pass the legislation. Watson says the goal of the criminal justice system is to hold people accountable, but it shouldn’t keep them from participating in the democratic process. He says it’s an issue of civil rights. “It’s no secret that much of the criminal justice system is slanted and skewed towards minorities, towards blacks," Watson said. "And so we still see kind of the legacy of that even to this day.”
Technically The bill still needs final approval in the House. Should that happen, it goes before the Governor for his signature and if that happens, the bill, would go into effect next year.