Prop 17: Parolee Voting Rights

Prop 17 supports allowing people on parole for felony convictions to vote.

Watch “Prop 17 in a Minute: Parolee Voting Rights” to understand what a yes or no vote on this proposition means. Click the CC button for Spanish subtitles. 

For a quick look at all the props, here’s a printable guide in English and in Spanish.

What?

Restores the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who are on parole.

Why?

The Legislature put this constitutional amendment on the ballot after hearing arguments that parole, being a transition from prison to normal life, should not be punitive by withholding voting rights from almost 50,000 people.

Vote Yes

Supports a constitutional amendment to allow people on parole for felony convictions to vote.

Vote No

Maintains the prohibition that keeps people on parole for felony convictions from voting.


States take a variety of approaches to felons’ voting rights, ranging from no disqualification up to a lifetime prohibition. California is one of three states requiring felons to complete their prison and parole sentences before regaining the right to vote. Supporters of Prop. 17 want to add California to the list of 19 states that allow felons to vote once they are on parole.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat, sponsored the change, arguing that parolees who are out working and paying taxes should be able to vote on policies that affect their lives. People who are sentenced to serve time on probation can vote in California. In either case the felon is monitored and can be sent back to prison for infractions.

A Republican representing several rural counties north of Sacramento, State Sen. Jim Nielsen, said it would be an injustice to allow parolees to vote. Nielsen, a former chairman of the California Board of Prison Terms, said, “They include murderers, voluntary manslaughter, rape, sodomists. For those that commit the crimes, particularly the heinous crimes, part of their sentence is to complete the parole period.”

Get Ready to Vote

Nov. 3 may feel far away now, but don’t forget to take the necessary steps to make sure you get to cast your vote! Here are some key details to remember:

  • Register to vote online by or have your mail-in registration postmarked by Oct. 19. If you somehow miss the deadline, all is not lost. You can still conditionally register up to Election Day itself. Not sure what your registration status is? Find out here.
  • Because of COVID-19, California is mailing all active registered voters mail-in ballots this year, so you don’t need to request one.
  • Mailed ballots should be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by your county’s elections office no later than Nov. 20. Scared your ballot is going to get lost in the mail? Don’t fret, the California Secretary of State has a ballot tracking tool so you can get notified of the status of your vote-by-mail ballot via email, text or call. Sign up here.
  • If you want to deliver your ballot in person on Election day, make sure you do so by the time the polls close on Nov. 3.