A bill passed by legislators in Colorado earlier this year has gone into effect, granting voting rights to 11,467 paroled felons in the state, according to The Colorado Sun. The law was passed earlier this year as part of a criminal justice reform package that aimed to lessen penalties for non-violent crimes and keep fewer people in jail.
Former felons in Colorado were already allowed to vote, unlike in many other states which have recently begun the process of restoring voting rights taken from people by the criminal justice system. This new law is different than those passed by other states, allowing those who are out of prison on parole to vote before the end of their sentence. The expansion of rights won’t apply to those currently in prison.
Proponents of the bill say that restoring voting rights to parolees will help them feel invested in their communities.
“If you vote you’re more likely not to commit a crime,” state Rep. Leslie Herod, one of the leaders of the reform, told the Sun. “You’re more likely to actually give back to nonprofits and your community and volunteer.”
The Colorado Department of Corrections issued a statement promising to educate parolees about the law.
“Our parole team is working on ways to help inform parolees of the new law,” CDC spokeswoman Annie Skinner said in a statement. “Currently we have established in policy that during the intake process, parolees will be informed of this change and their rights. We are also going to be working with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition to come into our Aurora office and work with parolees who want to register. We will be posting information in our parole office lobbies about the new law and registering to vote.”
The movement to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people has spread across the country over the last several years and become a topic in the 2020 presidential election. States including Virginia and Kentucky have made moves on the issue.
Last year, Florida voters passed an amendment automatically restoring voting rights to all 1.4 million former felons in the state. But Republicans have pushed back on the measure. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that will require former felons to pay back all the financial obligations of their sentence before registering to vote, a stipulation some have called a poll tax. It’s possible that hundreds of thousands of former felons will be denied their voting rights thanks to the bill.