La. Lawmaker Wants “To Rectify” Voting Rights For Convicted Felons
In the upcoming Louisiana Legislative session, Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith (D) will be looking to get voting rights restored for convicted felons as soon as they are released from prison.
Rep. Smith says her legislation does not give back voting rights for felons convicted of federal crimes. It would only apply to state prisoners. Currently in Louisiana, felons who are released from prison cannot get their voting rights back until they are off probation or have completed parole.
Nationally, according to this breakdown, Louisiana is one of 20 states that have this law in place. And this bothers Rep. Smith, who points out that sometimes the parole, or the probationary period can last 20 to 30 years, meaning "those individuals will never get an opportunity to vote." Smith cites her time campaigning in an example:
During campaigns you meet a lot of folks and you talk to them about why they don't vote and then they will tell you 'Well, I would like to but unfortunately I can't because I'm still on paper.' And that's one of the things that we would like to rectify.
Rep. Smith believes these felons should get the chance to vote once they walk out of prison, helping them feel like they are part of society again. She feels like this could keep them from committing another crime:
There's been some statistics that show that recidivism rates for those individuals who gain their (inaudible) responsibility back, is reduced.
A 2011 report out of Florida appears to support her claims.
The legislative session begins Monday, April 8.