Oregon debates allowing jailed adults to vote

Civic Affairs

Senate Bill 571 would allow incarcerated felons vote

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Maine, Vermont and Washington DC allow felons to vote while in prison. Oregon could join that list.

Senate Bill 571 is part of the social and criminal justice reform movement and part of the ideological battle raging in the state between the “tough on crime” camp and supporters of rehabilitation.

The bill would allow “persons convicted of felony to register to vote, update voter registration and vote in elections while incarcerated.”

Wednesday morning, Oregon lawmakers heard testimony about the Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow all Oregon prisoners to vote regardless of the crime they committed — including rape and murder.

Among those testifying in favor of SB 571 was Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt in Portland, October 29, 2020 (KOIN)

“I submit that there are zero public safety justifications for preventing someone from voting – so then what is the motivation? We could and should discuss racist motivations, and systems that were setup with the purpose to subjugate and oppress,” Schmidt said in a prepared statement. “And while that’s true, I think what it really says to the person who is incarcerated is that “you aren’t one of us.” Stripping someone of a right that others have fought and died for sends the message that ‘you are less than – you aren’t worthy.”

Ex-convict Jackie Whitt also testified in favor.

“Many people who end up in prison from a series of bad choices due to reasons beyond their understanding,” Whitt said. “Many unknowing suffering from the effects of trauma, undiagnosed mental illness, domestic and sexual violence, which were often coupled with desperate life situations.”

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Retired Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis totally disagrees.

“It’s the height of ludicrousness to say that the 12,000 people out of 4.2 million who have violated the social contract in the worst way possible should be right along side” other voters, he said.

Oregon allows felons to vote once they are no longer housed in a prison. That means they can vote while on parolel

In Washington, people with felony convictions can vote once they finish their sentence and are no longer on parole.

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