The state’s top elections official illegally denied voting rights to tens of thousands of Californians who served sentences for nonviolent felonies and then were placed under county supervision, an Alameda County judge ruled Wednesday. Secretary of State Debra Bowen wrongly barred the voting privileges of lower-level felons who were sent under Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” program to county jail instead of state prison, Judge Evelio Grillo wrote in a 27-page ruling. Grillo said ex-offenders who are placed under the supervision of county probation officers, rather than state parole agents, after their release are not on parole.
The judge said the state Legislature passed the realignment act with the goal of reintegrating former inmates into society, which would also include the right to vote.
“The plain language of the statute suggests that the integration of adult felons into society would be facilitated by allowing” the ex-offenders to vote, Grillo wrote, adding, “California law requires this court to give every reasonable presumption in favor of the right of people to vote.”
A spokeswoman for Bowen was not immediately available for comment.