felon voting

Gov. John Bel Edwards signs House Bill 265 to restore voting rights to some felons still on probation or parole during a packed signing ceremony at the State Capitol on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

In what promises to be a busy political year in Louisiana, some 40,000 citizens have just regained their right to participate in the most basic and important part of democratic governance — casting a vote for the candidates of their choice.

Act No. 636, the result of legislation approved by the Legislature last year and signed into law by the governor, allows people who have been out of prison for five years but remain on probation and parole to register to vote. The law takes effect today, March 1.

Previously, people convicted of felonies could only regain the right to vote once they completed probation and parole, which meant that some felons never had a chance to vote.

Convicted criminals should face serious consequences for breaking the law. But once they’ve paid their debt to society, restoring their right to vote is one way to bring them back into civic life and advance their rehabilitation. That’s good for them — and society at large.

Voters Organized to Educate, a nonprofit advocacy group that supported the legislation, is working with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office to disseminate information about Act. 636 to newly eligible voters. VOTE is also educating prospective new voters at seminars, including one today from 11:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at 110 Travis St., in Lafayette. For information about similar seminars in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and other assistance with voting, visit vote-nola.org.

We hope that the new law encourages more voters to get involved in their democracy. The system works best when eligible voters from all walks of life take the time to participate.