Arizona Capitol

Arizona Democrat's Bill Would Automatically Restore Voting Rights to Felons

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made headlines Tuesday by calling on states to repeal laws that keep felons from voting after they've finished their sentences.

One Arizona Democrat already introduced a related proposal several weeks ago, but it hasn't seen any action at the Legislature.

Although Arizona doesn't prevent felons from registering to vote after they've finished their prison sentences or terms of probation, the right to vote isn't automatically restored in some cases. When people been convicted of two or more felonies and served their sentence, they have to apply to a judge and have a judge approve the restoration of their right to vote.

Representative Martin Quezada, a Phoenix Democrat, is the lone sponsor of House Bill 2132. The bill would make the right to vote automatically restored for a felon who's finished his sentence, no matter how many felonies he's committed.

Attorney General Holder, citing a recent study, said felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote were less likely to go back to prison -- perhaps an indication that voting is a part of an ex-con's reintegration into society.

Quezada offered similar reasoning.

"We are better served when we create opportunities for people to be a part of their communities, and voting is one way to do that," Quezada said in a statement. "People who are returning to their communities should have a voice. When more people participate, our electorate becomes more representative and stronger. My bill addresses these very issues but unfortunately, it has not been heard in committee."

Although Quezada's bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, the chairman, Republican Representative Eddie Farnsworth, hasn't scheduled it for a hearing.

"In light of the national attention this matter is getting, I hope that Rep. Farnsworth will give my bill a hearing," Quezada said in his statement. "Otherwise, this bill will die and Arizona will continue to disenfranchise a sizable number of people who deserve a chance to participate in the process."

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley