After years of fighting for the change, an effort to restore the voting rights of thousands of Louisiana’s convicted felons still serving probation and parole was successful Thursday, winning final passage amid cheers, high-fives and hugs. A 54-42 House vote gave final passage to the bill by Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat who had faced repeated defeat for the proposal. The measure squeaked out of the chamber, reaching the governor’s desk with one vote more than it needed. Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to sign the change into law, according to spokesman Richard Carbo. It will take effect on March 1, 2019.
Smith needed three votes this session to even get the measure out of the House for consideration in the Senate, which backed the legislation in a 24-13 vote Wednesday. Convicted felons seeking passage of the legislation spent hours talking to lawmakers and walking the halls of the Louisiana Capitol, building support.
In the face of opposition that threatened to strand the proposal at its last step, supporters gave impassioned speeches about rehabilitation and redemption, invoking God and forgiveness and pleading with their House colleagues to consider the bill.