Everyone in America deserves to have their voices recognized at the ballot box. Currently, offenders who are released from prison on parole do not have the right to vote until their period of parole is complete. If passed, Proposition 17 — a statewide measure on the November 2020 ballot in California — would reinstitute parolees’ right to vote in the next election.
Why It Matters
Because Black Californians make up a disproportionate percentage of California’s prison population, denying voting rights to California parolees disproportionately disenfranchises black citizens. Blacks make up 26% of parolees, but only 6% of California’s adult population. Looking at Proposition 17 through this lens, it becomes clear that this is a social justice measure.
Grace Cathedral has worked towards social justice for many years. In the 1930s, we supported labor rights, in the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights, in the 1970s, women’s rights, and in the 1980s and 1990s, the cathedral was at the forefront of serving our brothers and sisters impacted by HIV/AIDS. With humility and also with courage, we strive to be a beacon for social and racial justice. In the words of Regina Walton, a congregation member speaking from her perspective as an African-American woman: “We are called as followers of Christ to work for justice. Let’s get to work.”
Prop 17 will restore voting rights to 50,000 people in California who are returning home after finishing their prison term. Voting is a constitutional right and a fundamental way in which citizens participate in our democracy. A fundamental principle of our democracy is that anyone convicted of a crime, having served their sentence, has the right fully to rejoin society. Denying voting rights to parolees tells them that even though they have served their sentences they are not welcome home.
Restoring voting rights to Californians who have completed their prison term helps them to reintegrate successfully into society and to become active members of our communities. They are our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and they are working to rejoin us and to rebuild their lives. Jesus teaches us to work for the reconciliation and inclusion of all people because every person is a beloved child of God. As a matter of social justice, equality, and fairness, Grace Cathedral supports Proposition 17, and we encourage you to vote faithfully in the November election.