BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) –
The effort to restore voting rights in Louisiana to certain convicted felons on probation and parole has crossed a major legislative hurdle, following years of upsets.
Those serving probation or parole could register to vote after being out of prison for five years, under a House bill nearing final passage. The Senate will consider the measure, by Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge), after a chamber committee advanced the legislation Monday. It won support in the House last week.
“Nothing could do more to build a stronger Louisiana than to give me the voting rights for myself and my family,” said Bruce Reilly, deputy director with Voice of the Experienced, who left prison in 2011.
A 1974 law allows the suspension of voting rights for those “under an order of imprisonment” for a felony. Legislation passed two years later added those on probation and parole to the list. Efforts to overturn the law in court have failed.
The Senate committee advanced Smith’s bill without objection, though one lawmaker questioned whether those on probation and parole should wait longer than five years to regain voting rights.
“I’m not for never having that right, but I think five is too soon,” said Sen. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro). “It’s the greatest privilege we have, and it was meant to be a deterrent from committing whatever you chose to commit.”
More than 70,000 Louisiana residents are on probation or parole for felony crimes. It’s unclear how many would meet the criteria under Smith’s bill.
If passed by the Senate, the change would take effect March 1, 2019.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Authored by Mike Tigas