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The Wshington State Senate convenes for floor session, Jan. 15, 2020.

OLYMPIA - Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, issued this statement on Senate Bill 6228, a Democrat-sponsored proposal that received a public hearing this morning and is scheduled for a vote Friday by the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. SB 6228 would automatically restore voting rights for felons as soon as their confinement in a state Department of Corrections facility has ended.

The bill’s proponents argue that denying felons the right to vote discriminates against people of color who have been convicted of crimes, but victims of crimes are also predominantly people of color. The rights of felons should not be valued more than the rights of victims, regardless of their skin.

Prison time, community custody and restitution are all reasonable penalties for our courts to include in a sentence. Punishment for a crime in Washington does not automatically end at the prison gate, so we should not restore voting rights for convicted felons until they have completed their sentences, including their period under DOC supervision and paying restitution to victims. 

“When this committee held a work session on this issue last fall, at least two convicted murderers expressed support for this bill. One of them, who testified via phone from a prison in Grays Harbor County, had beaten a couple with a hammer and robbed them and later beat a separate victim to death with the hammer. The other had been convicted of aggravated first-degree murder in gang-related shooting deaths. It should bother people that convicted murderers are backing a bill that Democrats seem to be fast-tracking this session. That tells me this bill is actually a step toward letting all inmates vote. Imagine allowing a block of people who have no ties to a community having influence over how much people pay in taxes or who is elected to serve us – even before they’ve paid their own debt to society.”