The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Jerry Cornfield |
Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 2:00 p.m.

Felons could be casting ballots this fall

Late this summer, hundreds of adults across the state may be lining up to register to vote.

They won't be turning 18 or becoming citizens.

They will be convicted criminals who have not finished paying their fines and restitution but will be able to regain one of the nation's most cherished rights, the vote.

The House today concurred with Senate amendments on House Bill 1517 dealing with the restoration of voting rights.

The vote was 52-44.

It now goes to the governor who is expected to sign it.

Passage marked the end of a nine-year effort by the bill's author, Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma.

Her original bill allowed any convicted felon to regain their voting rights once they have served their time and are no longer on probation.

Senators added what she called "sideboards" that give victims, county auditors and prosecutors the ability to ask a court to revoke a felon's voting rights if that person missed three payments in a 12-month period.

Secretary of State Sam Reed endorsed the legislation saying it will provide a brighter line between those who are eligible to vote and those who are not.

The 2004 election spotlighted the convoluted process felons now go through to try to get their voting rights restored. It also revealed the difficulty election officials have in verifying whether a felon has met all the requirements needed to legally register.

Republicans staunchly opposed the bill saying felons cannot be given back their right to vote until they pay their full debt to society and that includes time behind bars, probation and any legal financial obligations.

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