Proposed bill would make it easier for felons to regain vote - CBS 5 - KPHO

Proposed bill would make it easier for felons to regain right to vote

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

James Hamm was paroled in 1992. He spent nearly two decades behind bars for a drug-related homicide. He was out nine years before his right to vote was restored.

"I think it's symbolically very important. It's difficult to leave prison behind," said James Hamm.

Now a proposed bill could make it easier for felons who want to cast their ballot. Rep. Martin Quezada authored House Bill 2132.

"Once their debt to society has been paid, then and only then will they be given their right to vote back," said Rep. Quezada, D-Phoenix.

The bill would restore a felon's right to vote after that person completed probation or received an absolute discharge from the Department of Corrections. It would allow restoration before all of the individual's fines and restitution are paid.

"If we want them back in our society and we want them to appropriately handle problems, we want them to go to the ballot box. We don't want them to go to the gun store or the drug dealer," said Middle Ground Prison Reform Executive Director Donna Leone Hamm.

Not everyone stands behind the bill. Rep. Steve Pierce told CBS 5 the system currently in place is effective. He said he believes there are more important issues for lawmakers to focus on.

"There are bills down there that don't have anything to do with the future and the economy, with what Arizona should be looking towards," said Rep. Steve Pierce, R-Phoenix.

"The quicker that we have people make that bridge so that they are no longer thinking the way a prisoner does when they're out in the community, I think that's important for everyone," said James Hamm.

This bill only applies to felons with two or more convictions. Under current law, felons with one conviction automatically get their right to vote restored.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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