Nearly 150,000 Californians have regained the right to vote. Most are young African American and Latino men who have served their time for nonviolent crimes.

A state appeals court reversed a year-old policy that disenfranchised those who had been convicted of certain felonies but who had been given probation instead of prison time.

"This is an important step toward restoring full citizenship rights to those who have served their sentences," said ACLU/SC Executive Director Ramona Ripston. "California must do a better job of educating those released from prison about their right to vote."

Like most states, California does not allow those currently in prison or on parole to vote. Those who have completed post-prison parole or who are on court-ordered probation may vote. Probation is similar to parole but is commonly granted to those who commit nonviolent crimes, and may include time in local jail.

Nationwide, an estimated 5 million Americans currently in prison or who have served their sentences are disfranchised by punitive state laws. Many do not know their voting rights are restored when they leave prison, particularly among minority voters. Felon disenfranchisement policies affect 2.5% of Americans, but prevent 13% of African American men from voting, according to a report by the ACLU.

Several states permanently disenfranchise former felons who have served their sentences. Florida has created over 600,000 "ghost citizens," in the words of the ACLU in that state.

The ACLU of Northern California filed the case on behalf of several Californians on probation, the League of Women Voters and other voting-rights groups. The ACLU combats the disenfranchisement of former inmates and promotes education campaigns to inform them of their rights.

Stay informed

ACLU of Southern California is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National