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Redefining Democracy: Returning Citizens and Voting Rights

The Significance of Voting Rights for Returning Citizens

The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of citizenship and is vital in promoting civic engagement and representation. Voting is not just a privilege but a fundamental right at the heart of a fair and inclusive society.

BOSS recognizes the significance of voting rights for returning citizens and actively supports efforts to remove barriers and promote civic participation. Through its Social Justice Collective, it strives to provide education, advocacy, and community engagement to raise awareness and empower individuals to exercise their right to vote.

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy ~ John Lewis, Civil Rights Activist

California's Proposition 17: A Step Towards Equity and Inclusion

In California, the voting rights of returning citizens individuals were restored in 2016 with the passage of Proposition 17. Proposition 17 amended the state constitution to allow individuals who are on parole for felony convictions to vote in elections. This change reversed a previous law that disenfranchised individuals on parole, allowing them to participate in the democratic process and have a voice in shaping their communities and society.

By granting individuals on parole the ability to vote, we affirm their status as equal members of our community, deserving of a voice in shaping the future of our society. Upholding the voting rights of returning citizens individuals is a crucial step towards promoting social justice, reducing disparities, and building a more representative democracy that reflects the diversity and richness of our collective experiences.

Every vote cast is a testament to the power of second chances, the value of redemption, and the belief in every individual's inherent worth and dignity, regardless of their past mistakes.

Two Black men and a Black woman holding signs that read, "Voting Is A Right", "Our Voices, Our Issues, Our Votes" "Restore the Vote"

Historically, many states in the United States implemented policies that disenfranchised individuals with felony convictions, even after they had completed their sentences.

These discriminatory practices disproportionately impacted communities of color and perpetuated deep-rooted inequalities.

Returning citizens encountered formidable obstacles when attempting to exercise their right to vote, limiting their ability to engage in civic life and contribute to community development actively.

California's evolving stance on this issue reflects a growing recognition of the need to address systemic barriers faced by returning citizens individuals and promote their successful reintegration into society. By acknowledging the significance of restoring voting rights to individuals on parole, California has emerged as a trailblazer in championing equity, inclusivity, and social justice.


The impact of Proposition 17 in California on the returning citizens community has been overwhelmingly positive, as it has restored their voting rights upon release from prison. This change has brought about significant benefits in multiple ways:

  • Firstly, by allowing returning citizens and individuals on parole to vote, Proposition 17 has played a crucial role in promoting civic engagement and encouraging participation in the democratic process. It has empowered individuals to have a say in their communities and influence policies that directly impact their lives.

  • Secondly, the restoration of voting rights contributes to the successful reintegration of returning citizens into society by reinforcing their sense of belonging, citizenship, and responsibility as they rebuild their lives.

  • Lastly, granting voting rights to individuals on parole helps to combat the stigma often associated with a criminal record. It recognizes their agency and potential to positively contribute to society, fostering a more inclusive and equitable community for all.

What Can We Do?

  1. Continue to Raise Awareness: Share information about the significance of voting rights for returning citizens individuals and the impact of disenfranchisement policies. Educate others about the importance of inclusive and equitable voting practices.

  2. Support Organizations: Volunteer with or donate to organizations like Boss to help support their Social Justice Collective, which advocates for the rights of marginalized communities. Your support can help amplify their efforts to promote social justice and equity.

  3. Facilitate Dialogue: Initiate conversations within your community about the barriers faced by returning citizens and individuals and provide access to information about their right to vote. Foster understanding and support for policies that promote equity and inclusion.

By engaging in these efforts to spread awareness and support returning citizens in the democratic process, we can help empower individuals to make their voices heard, contribute to positive change, and strengthen our communities.

Empowering Returning Citizens: Impact and Path Forward

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore ~ Cesar Chavez, Civil Rights Adocate

To truly understand the impact of disenfranchisement on returning citizens individuals, we must listen to their stories and experiences. Organizations like BOSS, through their Social Justice Collective, have begun integrating voter registration opportunities into their programs and events.

By providing accessible voter registration services, the Collective empowers community members to engage in the democratic process and exercise their fundamental right to vote.

In addition to the tangible benefits experienced by the returning citizens community, the restoration of voting rights through Proposition 17 underscores the fundamental importance of ensuring that all individuals can participate in the democratic process.

As we continue to advocate for social justice, let us remember the words of civil rights leader

- [ACLU's Criminal Justice Reform page](

- [California Secretary of State - Voting Rights Restoration] Voting Rights: Persons with a Prior Felony Conviction :: California Secretary of State:

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