A bid to restore voting rights to some of Louisiana’s convicted felons still serving probation and parole neared final legislative passage Monday, in a surprise turnaround after years of defeat. The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the measure after senators on the committee spurned a move by Republican Sen. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro to kill the bill. Louisiana’s 1974 constitution allows suspension of voting rights for people who are “under an order of imprisonment” for a felony. A law passed two years later specified that people on probation or parole for a felony are included in that definition, leaving some unable to ever vote again after incarceration. The House-backed proposal would allow someone on probation or parole for a felony to register to vote after being out of prison for five years.
…Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, the New Orleans Democrat who chairs the committee, read from a letter of support that described people getting discouraged because they can’t participate in a right that is “fundamental to our democracy.”
Fannin’s bid to kill the bill got support from Sen. Mike Walsworth, a West Monroe Republican. But Peterson and three other Democrats refused to support the move. After that 4-2 vote against killing the proposal, the committee sent it to the Senate floor without objection.
The bill’s continued advancement was unexpected this session.