Washington State Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill Wednesday to restore voting privileges to people convicted of a felony once they are released from prison.
The bill will become effective next year. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that 20,000 people in Washington will have their voting rights restored.
“This is a good day for democracy in Washington state,” the Governor said.
“While other states are restricting the right to vote, I’m glad that in Washington, we are expanding access to democracy.”
Governor Inslee’s step to expand voting rights is surprising as Republican lawmakers seek to restrict voter’s access to elections. According to CNN, Republican lawmakers have introduced 361 restrictive voting bills in 47 states. Washington State Representative Tarra Simmons, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison for theft and drug crimes, sponsored the bill that Governor Inslee signed.
“Regaining the right to vote, after having lost so many things, meant more to me than most people could imagine,” Simmons said after the bill was signed. “This might seem a small thing to some people, but it’s a giant step for civil rights and it’s one that will give others what it gave me: a belief that I mattered, that I was once again a member of society, and that my freedom was worth preserving at all costs.”
Governor Inslee praised Simmons on Twitter for using her own experiences to “successfully and effectively” benefit others.
Today I signed HB 1078, which will restore voting rights for people who have completed their prison sentence.
Thank you to @TarraSimmons5 for sponsoring this critical legislation. Rep. Simmons has successfully and effectively used her own lived experience to benefit others.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) April 7, 2021