American News Apr 8, 2021 7:15 AM EST

Washington Gov. Inslee signs bill giving felons the right to vote after prison release

Washington Democrat Governor Jay Inslee signed house bill 1078 on Wednesday that will automatically restore the voting rights of felons upon their release from prison, even if they are still under community supervision.

Washington Gov. Inslee signs bill giving felons the right to vote after prison release
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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Washington Democrat Governor Jay Inslee signed house bill 1078 on Wednesday that will automatically restore the voting rights of felons upon their release from prison, even if they are still under community supervision.

As it stands, felons in the state can only have their voting rights restored after finishing the conditions of their sentence. The law is scheduled to take effect next year and will restore voting rights to more than 20,000 people. The Washington state Legislature approved the measure despite Republican lawmakers’ objections to restoring voting rights of felons who are on parole or probation as well as to those who were convicted of violent and sexual offenses.

Inslee took a jab at the recently passed Georgia voting law before signing the bill. "While other states are restricting the right to vote, I'm glad that in Washington, we are expanding access to democracy."

In 2020, Inslee was stopped by the state Supreme Court from releasing serial killers including Gary Ridgeway, the Green River killer, under the guise of the COVID pandemic. He did manage to release gang members, sex offenders and other dangerous criminals many of whom were re-arrested for new crimes.

Washington joined other Democratic-led states moving ahead with new laws that would compromise voter integrity. In Delaware, the state Senate has approved a bill to automatically register voters when they visit the Department of Motor Vehicles regardless of citizenship status.

In Virginia the state repealed its voter ID law, also automatic voter registration for anyone who obtains a driver's license regardless of citizenship. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam last month took executive action to also restore former felons' voting rights as soon as they complete their prison terms, a move that will apply to more than 69,000 felons.

The Washington bill was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Tarra Simmons, who has a past record for a series of arrests in 2011 related to substance abuse and selling drugs while working as a nurse, which led to a 20-month prison stint for Simmons. She is believed to be the first formerly incarcerated lawmaker in America. Republican Rep. Jesse Young co-sponsored the bill.

Simmons said in a statement, "Regaining the right to vote, after having lost so many things, meant more to me than most people could imagine. This might seem a small thing to some people, but it's a giant step for civil rights and it's one that will give others what it gave me: a belief that I mattered, that I was once again a member of society, and that my freedom was worth preserving at all costs."

The voting laws in blue states across the country are being pushed by the Brennan Center for Justice, a group of liberal legal activists.

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