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Election Officials Sued in California Over New Rule
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Election officials in California were sued on Wednesday by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters and two groups supporting the rights of prisoners. The lawsuit claims that tens of thousands of criminals in the state who are being moved to county jails and then supervision within the community should be allowed to vote.

A new realignment law began back in October, which moved lower-level criminals to county jails, where they are not allowed to vote in elections. The plaintiffs named in the suit claim that those no longer sitting in state prisons or under supervision should be permitted to vote during the primary election in June. The lawsuit estimates that there are 85,000 offenders who fall into this category.

  
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The lawsuit argues against a memo issued by Secretary of State Debra Bowen and her office that claims prisoners moved to county jail or under supervision should not be permitted to vote. The defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, are John Arntz and Bowen.

The memo, which was written by the chief legal counsel of Bowen’s staff, was sent to county election officials. The memo said in part that offenders “serve their felony sentences in county jail instead of state prison or … their release from prison is labeled something other than ‘parole.'”

The memo was 18 pages long and written by chief legal counsel Lowell Finley. The memo continued with “These individuals are ‘imprisoned for the conviction of a felony,’ but they are not ‘in prison for the conviction of a felony.’”

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Finley also said that there was no evidence available to prove that lawmakers intended to permit more criminals to vote once the realignment was approved.

No comment was issued by Bowen or any of her spokespeople. It was released that Bowen would be reviewing the legal documents and would litigate them if it becomes necessary. Jory Steele, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said that the ruling affects nonwhites because the state has a higher percentage of racial minorities incarcerated. Steele is an attorney who is representing one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Some of the supporters for the plaintiffs argued that the offenders should be permitted to vote as a part of their rehabilitation method.



“It’s also about taking responsibility and participating fully in the community,” Scott McDonald, the Santa Cruz County’s Chief Probation Officer said. McDonald is in favor of the lawsuit as well. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Legal Services for Prisoners with Children All of Us or None. The lone prisoner in the lawsuit as a plaintiff is Alisha Coleman, who is in jail for a narcotics conviction in San Francisco.



 

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