Convicted felons who are back in their communities are one step closer toward having their voting rights restored under a bill that passed a House committee on Wednesday. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-2 in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, that would allow a felon under community supervision to vote if the individual had not been incarcerated within the past five years. Currently, ex-convicts cannot vote while on probation or parole.
“You don’t represent me; I don’t have any say-so,” Brian Marks, a Baton Rouge native that served 20 years in Angola Prison and now teaches Sunday school, testified. “I’ve been punished, I’ve been corrected… I’m trying to do the right thing and vote.”
The bill now heads to the House floor, where it could face tougher scrutiny.
“There are folks that have done wrong and how do we heal from that? We heal by coming together,” Bruce Riley, an ex-convict and the director of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), said. “Allow me to do my duty and allow me to vote.”