Voting Rights for Convicted Felons: Even Bob Filner

Today’s Los Angeles Daily Journal carries an Associated Press story detailing the felony plea bargain reached by former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and our state Attorney General’s office.

After describing the terms of his sentence relating to the sexual harassment allegations that forced his resignation in August, the article states, “[a]s a convicted felon, Filner forfeits his right to vote.”

The article is incorrect.

It is a popular misconception that felons lose their voting rights upon conviction.

But in California, a felony conviction will only bar someone from voting one of under the following circumstances:

1) The person is serving a state prison sentence;

2) Probation was denied and the person is serving a county jail sentence pursuant to Penal Code section 1170(h); or

3) The person is on parole, mandatory supervision, or post-release community supervision.

And even as to this class of defendants, the right to vote is automatically restored once they are no longer subject to supervision (i.e., parole, mandatory supervision, or post-release community supervision).

The reason why Filner can still vote is that he was granted felony probation. Voting rights are not affected for individuals who are on felony probation — even if they are serving a jail term as a condition of probation or (like Filner) serving time on house arrest.

The Secretary of State has published this online guide detailing eligibility rules for those previously convicted of a felony.

If you have any questions about the collateral consequences of a felony conviction in California, including voting rights, please contact The Law Office of Brian Gurwitz, APC.

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