Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings! There has been a flurry of action in the Legislature recently, as the Senate spent many long hours passing the vast majority of 266 bills (I question if most are even necessary in a free society) over the past two weeks — and another hour debating a truly bad piece of legislation that I helped to put down!
Felon voting? Not anytime soon!
Typically, voting on the floor of the state Senate (or House) is a very structured process – bills have been discussed by each political caucus in their respective meeting rooms, legislators usually know where they stand on an issue and the majority party usually knows if it has the votes to pass the bill before the final tally is calculated. That all went out the window Wednesday evening when Senate Democrats tried to pass Senate Bill 6228 — better known as the “felon voting” bill.
To give you some background, Washington law allows convicted felons to get their voting rights restored only after they have completed community custody and/or paid restitution (if ordered by the court) on top of completing their period of confinement in prison. SB 6228 would have restored voting rights to felons after being released from prison even though they are still serving their court-ordered community custody or owe restitution. In other words, prematurely – before their debt to society is fully satisfied.
The majority Democrats put their felon-voting bill on the list of bills eligible for Senate votes well ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for sending bills to the House. They dangled it in front of us on two other days without making a move, and as Wednesday progressed, the curiosity grew – would Democrats really have the nerve to try passing it? Shortly before the 5 p.m. voting deadline, the bill was brought to the Senate floor – and the drama began.
As the debate started, tensions grew high and partisan politics were in full swing. I was able to attach an amendment to the bill that would not allow child rapists the right to vote until a sentence was fully satisfied. Several of my Republican colleagues offered similar amendments — with little success. The Democrats even turned down an amendment that would have kept repeat criminals like the accused shooters in the recent downtown-Seattle gunfight from having their voting rights restored prematurely!
Then, after rejecting Senator Mike Padden’s unsuccessful amendment to keep violent criminals from voting until they are released from community custody, the majority party abruptly stopped debate. I guess its leaders realized they no longer had the votes to get this bill through. This does not usually happen, because who brings a bill up to a vote just to have it fail? I am very proud of my colleagues for standing up for the rights of victims and for holding strong against those who apparently are more concerned about felons.
I encourage you to watch the full debate (interrupted by SB 5400) on TVW here.
Voting is a right and those who have committed crimes should not have their right to vote restored until they have completed their sentence.