It has been nearly six months since counties across California began grappling with the new “Realignment” law known as AB 109. The law requires tens of thousands of parole violators and people convicted of low-level felonies to be diverted from overcrowded state prisons to County jails.
One of the implications of AB 109, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in April 2011 and which kicked in Oct. 1, 2011, is that prisoners returning to counties are not allowed to vote in the June primary election, even though they are treated as probationers instead of as parolees, who are typically banned from voting.
As a result of the tension between the new law and older laws pertaining to restrictions on voters, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has been sued in a San Francisco appeals court by prisoners’ rights groups and the nonpartisan League of Women’s Voters.
"The secretary of state says the released prisoners cannot vote because they really are parolees under the supervision of the probation department,” said Fanya Baruti, an organizer for All Of Us Or None, a self-described national organizing initiative of prisoners, former prisoners and felons. “We are trying to challenge that.”
On Tuesday, March 13, the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles will discuss the latest developments surrounding the lawsuit against the state at a public meeting in South Central Los Angeles. The meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Freedom Hall in the Watts Labor Community Action Center, located at 10950 South Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90059.
The public meeting will also discuss the latest in a lawsuit brought by a local nonprofit group, Californians Aware, against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. That lawsuit, which was filed on February 3 in the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that the County Board violated the Brown Act in failing to hold public meetings during discussion with state officials about how to prepare for the return of more than 80,000 state prisoners to L.A. County.
“In addition to violating the law, the action displayed an astonishing contempt for the public,” the Los Angeles Times remarked in a January 31 editorial on the issue.
See the two attached PDF files for details about AB 109 and the lawsuit.