Proposals to restore the voting rights of more than 70,000 Louisiana ex-felons on probation or parole got a chilly reaction from some state lawmakers Wednesday. A House committee rejected one such proposal and convinced a lawmaker to delay action on a similar bill until next week. Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat, pulled her proposal from a vote after her colleagues expressed concern about giving the vote back to people who have been on parole or probation for five years. Similar proposals have died before in the conservative Louisiana Legislature.
Smith introduced the bill after supporters of restoring voting rights struck out in court last month, when a judge told them they would have to get the law changed if they want the prohibition lifted. The law affects about 71,000 citizens — roughly 1.5 percent of the state’s population.
Multiple ex-offenders told the committee they are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes but cannot truly participate in their communities if they cannot vote.
“People who are engaged in their community don’t commit crimes,” said Bruce Reilly, the deputy director of the New Orleans group Voice of the Ex-Offender. Reilly, who is in his 40s, said he cannot vote until he is 65 because of a murder he committed as a teenager.