Every Vote Counts: Realignment & Felony Disenfranchisement

Feb 08, 2012
ACLU of Northern California

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Every Vote Counts

The right to vote is a fundamental right and all eligible individuals must be allowed to exercise their right. The California Constitution disenfranchises individuals on the basis of criminal conviction only if they are "imprisoned in state prison or...on parole as a result of the conviction of a felony." League of Women Voters of California v. McPherson, 145 Cal. App. 4th 1469 at 1486 (2006).

After the passage of the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 (Realignment) the California Secretary of State's office issued a memo stating that individuals convicted pursuant to Realignment are disenfranchised. However, the ACLU of Northern California's legal analysis of the California Constitution, longstanding tenets of elections law, and Realignment suggests that individuals sentenced under Realignment retain the right to vote.

Despite the current uncertainty regarding voting with a felony conviction, the First District Court of Appeals decision in McPherson remains the law and clearly establishes that individuals convicted of a misdemeanor and individuals sentenced to felony probation retain the right to vote, even if confined in local jail.


The 2011 Realignment, commonly referred to as the Criminal Justice Realignment Act, includes AB 109, enacted April 4, 2011 (Stats. 2011, ch. 15.), and subsequent cleanup legislation, including AB 117, enacted June 30, 2011 (Stats. 2011, ch. 39.), and ABX1 17, enacted September 20, 2011 (Stats. 2011-2012 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 12.).

Learn more

Voting Rights Case Filed in California Supreme Court

Californians Sentenced Under Realignment Have the Right to Vote, Argue Civil Rights Advocates

League of Women Voters of California v. McPherson

Know your rights!