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Gov. Brown Signs Bill Giving Right To Vote To Thousands Of Felons

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Governor Brown gave the right to vote back to tens of thousands of felons Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 2466, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) restores voting rights for felons who are not doing time in state or federal prisons.

Under the new law, anyone convicted of a felony, but who is not currently in state or federal prison or on parole, is allowed to vote.

California's constitution denies the right to vote to anyone in prison or on parole. In 2011, the state's Realignment Plan shifted many of the state's corrections program responsibilities to local government. It spurred the transfer of many low-level felony offenders to county-run jails and programs in an effort to reduce overcrowded state and federal prisons and save money.

AB 2466 was borne from a 2014 lawsuit on behalf of those low-level felons who were no longer in state or federal prison. The lawsuit argued the people in county programs shouldn't be classified the same as other felons, and won.

Wednesday's passage of the AB 2466 could translate to as many as 50,000 new voters in California. Many will be voting from their jail cells.

Supporters of the bill argue that clarification was necessary to bring the state into compliance with the 2014 lawsuit. The ACLU said current laws were modern-day "felony disenfranchisement" and a "legacy of Jim Crow."

Critics say AB 2466 rewards criminals for bad behavior.

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) said she fears it will impact the integrity of elections.

"Close elections, especially at the local level, could now turn on a handful of ballots cast by people in jail," said Bates in a statement.

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