The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that expands voting rights on a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday.
HB 4, if enacted, would expand automatic voter registration, restore released convicted felons’ right to vote, create a voluntary permanent absentee voter list and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act.
“For this bill, I think it’s a really solid step forward in improving access to the electoral system for as many people as possible,” House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Christine Chandler said. “And the other one is this issue of felons and they’re released from prison and… they’re on some conditions of parole and what do we want for those folks? We want them integrated in our society.. and we want them to feel like they can move forward and that they are going to be accepted, and that they’re with us and well, how do you make them feel with us? Well, one way to make them feel with us is by acknowledging that they have an investment in our society, and that they want to be able to participate in our electoral process.”
More: Voting rights bill clears its first committee
An issue with allowing released felons to vote is that they may not be done with their sentence, as Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, pointed out. Reeb served as the Ninth Judicial District Attorney prior to being elected to the House of Representatives.
“I would just point out… with the person serving house arrest or on an ankle monitor, there’s quite a bit of case law out there that says that if you are serving a sentence, it is considered presentence confinement,” Reeb said. “I would just ask you to look at that language. I still am of the belief that… when you are out of prison or you’re serving, a sentence on probation is generally a sentence where you are sentenced to the Department of Corrections, and that is set suspended in favor of probation. So you really haven’t completed all your requirements and while you’re on probation or parole, you do have pretty strict conditions of, you know, reporting and no drugs and all those different things.”
The bill was passed with no amendments.
The bill now heads to the House floor.