Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that would restore the voting rights of criminals on parole, including paroled felons.

The bill was sponsored in the State House by Democratic Bremerton Rep. Tarra Simmons; who is herself a former convicted felon.

According to MyNorthwest.com, Simmons was convicted in 2001 of a variety of crimes including assault, and then drug and meth charges in 2011. The Associated Press said the death of her father spurred her into meth use.

She ended up going to law school, and via a ruling from the State Supreme Court, she was given the opportunity to take the bar exam after her release. She then ran for office and became the first convicted felon to do so in WA.

She told the AP and MyNorthwest.com the bill allows former prisoners to reintegrate into society; and she also claims it's a matter of racial justice. She says people on parole in WA are "disproportionally" people of color. She is also an outspoken BLM supporter.

The bill will affect about 20,000 former inmates, including felons, who are on parole. Previously, all incarcerated persons who go on parole had to satisfy all their terms of release with the Department of Corrections. Depending upon their sentence, this could take up to three years especially for those who committed violent crimes.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and advocacy groups supported the bill; despite opposition from a number of victim's rights groups.

GOP leaders opposed the bill, saying in general people need to prove they can follow the law before re-earning the right to vote. They also said it was a 'slap' in the face to victims to whom many of these parolees are still paying fines and restitution to.

Some also said this bill trivializes the pain and suffering victims suffered at the hands of their perpetrators by granted them rights before they've fully made restitution.

 

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