Washington state expands voting rights for individuals with felony convictions
© WikiMedia (Lorie Shaull)
Washington state expands voting rights for individuals with felony convictions

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Wednesday expanding voting rights for persons with felony convictions.

HB 1078 automatically restores voting rights for people with felony convictions once completing a sentence of total confinement through the Washington Department of Corrections. Total confinement is limited to the physical area of a correctional facility and does not include community custody, which is a part of a person’s sentence where they may be required to live in an approved home and be prohibited from contacting certain individuals.

Washington previously used a system where, once released from a correctional facility or community custody, individuals could have their voting rights provisionally restored. But only upon an approved legal process, such as a final order of discharge by Intermediate Sentence Review Board, certificate of restoration by the governor, certificate of discharge by a sentencing court, or court order could voting rights be permanently restored.

Inslee thanked Representative Tarra Simmons for her efforts in getting the legislation passed. Simmons, now representing the 23rd district in the Washington House of Representatives, was previously incarcerated for drug-related offenses and has advocated for the restoration of voting rights.

“Nice to see our work getting national attention. I hope the rest of the nation works to expand democracy instead of restrict it,” Simmons said on Twitter.

The law will restore the voting rights of more than 20,000 individuals.