Many felons can vote unless they are physically in state prison

By Allison B. Margolin, Attorney at Law

WCL News — Many, many marijuana felons can and should vote. With the next election cycle right around the corner, it is imperative for current and ex-felons to know and exercise their right to vote when the law allows them –which is most of the time . This way voters can choose leaders who will most effectively improve the legal, political and social contexts that led to their convictions.

In California, the Court of Appeals ruled in League of Women Voters of CA v. McPherson, 145 Cal. App 4th 1469 (2006), that felons can vote when they are in county jail or off parole. The Court relied on the CA Constitution Article II, Section IV: “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony,” and ruled that when a felon is in county jail, as opposed to state prison, the crime would be treated as a misdemeanor for purposes of voting rights. The League case arose via a writ of mandate — a request for a court to compel a governmental agency to perform its duty when three nonprofit groups and three felons in local jails brought suit to compel the State to accept voter registrations sent from jail.

Oregon’s voting laws are similar, but a felon there can vote while on parole. A parole violation resulting in incarceration does result in a loss of voting privileges.

In Washington State, all felons automatically lose their right to vote and must petition to have their right to vote restored under Section 994A.637 (1)(a). If the conviction was before July 1, 1984 you must petition the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board to restore your right. Call 360-493-9266, or go online to If convicted of a federal felony, a state resident must appeal to the State Clemency and Pardons Board, which can restore civil rights to federal felons residing in the state.

It is vital for marijuana felons to take advantage of their right to vote. Cannabis consumers and providers have a clear stake in these laws and the politicians who apply them. Only by exercising these rights can felons bring about the political and social changes that can result in preventing future generations from being incarcerated. — West Coast Leaf News Service

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