Politics & Government

Felon vote-restoration bill on governor’s desk

The House sent Gov. Chris Gregoire a compromise bill Wednesday that gives felons the right to vote once they are out of jail and out from under state supervision. Gregoire has expressed support for the idea in the past.

House Bill 1517 would restore felons’ right to vote even if they owe restitution or fines. Parties as varied as Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington backed the measure, but House Republicans locked up again in opposition, and it passed on a 52-44 vote.

The measure includes a Senate provision from Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, that says the right to vote is restored to felons provisionally if they are not under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Corrections. It also says that can be revoked by a court if the offender fails to make three payments in a 12-month period, provided that the county clerk or would-be recipient of the payment requests it.

“I’ve heard from many victims who say, ‘I’m still feeling the pain. ... Don’t restore any of their rights to vote unless they have paid their restitution,’ ” Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Thurston County, said.

But Rep. Jeanne Darneille, D-Tacoma, sponsored the measure and said she thought the Senate amendment “sets some sideboards around this issue.”

The ACLU has argued that the financial burdens are like a modern “poll tax” that makes it all but impossible for some felons to ever get the right to vote back.

Among South Sound lawmakers, Democrats Fred Finn of Thurston County, Kathy Haigh of Shelton, Sam Hunt of Olympia and Brendan Williams of Olympia voted in favor. Voting against were Republicans Alexander, Tom Campbell of Roy, Richard DeBolt of Chehalis and Jim McCune of Graham.

No Republicans crossed over to vote in favor of HB 1517. Democrats who voted against included Brian Blake, Aberdeen; John Driscoll, Spokane; Laura Grant-Herriot, Walla Walla; Chris Hurst, Enumclaw; Troy Kelley, Tacoma; Tim Probst, Vancouver; Larry Seaquist, Gig Harbor; and Deb Wallace, Vancouver. Two other Democrats were absent.