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Voting for Reentering Californians: What you need to know

April 20, 2022

Statewide elections are coming up on June 7! We are here to clear up misinformation for reentering citizens who have had a prior run-in with the criminal-justice system. Keep reading so you’ll have the resources needed to confidently partake in our state’s democracy and register to vote by the voter-registration deadline on May 23.  

Navigating the voting process is not easy and is at times intimidating, which is why we pulled this guide together to ensure that reentering Californians have the tools to make their voices heard with the ballot. 

California is one of 20 states that has implemented policies to re-enfranchise those who have had their voting rights limited or taken away due to past felony convictions. Now it’s up to us to keep each other informed about California’s voting rights and to help get our community members registered to vote. 

To register to vote in California, you must meet four requirements: 

  1. You are a citizen of the United States and a resident of California.
  2. You are at least 18 years of age on the day of the election.
  3. You are “not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.” 
  4. You are “not currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony.” 

The last state voting requirement bars only folks who are currently incarcerated “for the conviction of a felony.” In California, if you have served time for a felony conviction or—due to the passage of Proposition 17: Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment—are on parole for a felony conviction, you have the right to vote! 

There are still many barriers that prevent reentering citizens from votingand not all have been addressed yet. But if we all use our voices to demand change and vote, we will get to a point where everyone, despite their past, will have the right to fully partake in democratic life. Below are commonly asked questions from reentering voters: 

Can I register to vote if I don’t have a driver’s license? 

For folks who don’t have a California driver’s license or a state-issued identification card, you can still register to vote. The process also requires a couple more steps. 

Without a state-issued ID, you’ll have to print, fill out, and mail your voter-registration application, which can be found at RegisterToVote.ca.gov. You could also visit your local elections office to complete the application. Locations can be found at https://couragecaliforniainstitute.org/#counties  

Can I register to vote if I don’t have a permanent address or are currently unhoused? 

Californians can register to vote with an address where they spend most of their time, and this includes shelters and other forms of temporary housing. However, you cannot register to vote using a P.O. box or a business address. If you have a state ID or a driver’s license, you can easily register to vote online at https://couragecaliforniainstitute.org/voter-tools

For specific voting questions, we encourage you to reach out to the Secretary of State’s office or your local elections office

If you are facing other barriers as a reentering Californian, please submit them to [email protected] and we’ll provide you with the relevant resources. As more questions come in from reentering citizens, we will continue to expand this guide. We all face unique circumstances and all deserve the right to vote for the leaders who make decisions that affect our lives. 

Make sure your voice is heard by casting votes for leaders and policies reflecting your needs and values. And share this information with your community. As mentioned earlier, we’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work ahead, and we need your input to move in the direction that Californians want and need. 

Resources: 

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/california-voters-approve-prop-17-restoring-voting-rights-people-who-have

https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration

https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voting-resources/voting-california/who-can-vote-california/voting-rights-californians

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_17,_Voting_Rights_Restoration_for_Persons_on_Parole_Amendment_(2020)

https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/pdfs/covid-19-resources/votesafe-homelessness.pdf

https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/felon-voting-rights.aspx