By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) – The governor of a Northwestern US state is restoring the rights of felons to vote after they serve their time in prison.
The bill signed into law Wednesday by Washington Governor Jay Inslee also restores the voting rights of felons who are under the government-supervised parole system.
When it goes into effect next year, the law could restore voting rights to more than 20,000 convicted felons in the state.
"While other states are restricting the right to vote, I'm glad that in Washington [state], we are expanding access to democracy," Inslee, a Democrat, said before signing the bill.
While the states of Virginia and New Jersey last week joined other Democratic-led states in introducing new laws to expand voting rights, most Republican-led states have gone in the opposite direction, seeking to introduce more restrictions.
In introducing new restrictions, Republican lawmakers have cited claims of widespread voter fraud that numerous studies have found to be baseless. Democrats charge the restrictions are targeted at groups that tend to vote Democrat.
As of March 24, Republican state lawmakers in 47 states have introduced 361 restrictive bills, led by Texas, Arizona, and Georgia, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
"In a backlash to 2020’s historic voter turnout, and under the pretense of responding to baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, state lawmakers have introduced a startling number of bills to curb the vote," the bipartisan law and public policy institute said in a statement last Thursday.
"Many bills seek to undermine the power of local officials," it said, but added: "Federal voting rights legislation now moving through Congress would override many of these state-level restrictions, and some state lawmakers are responding."
The federal voting rights legislation, however, faces the opposition of a Republican-led filibuster, and cannot be passed unless filibuster rules requiring a 60-vote supermajority in the US Senate change.