Voting rights bill for felons clears final legislative hurdle

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Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, tearfully congratulates prison-rights advocate Checo Yancy on a bill that would restore voting rights to felons. (Credit: Devon Sanders, LSU Manship School News Service)

Paul Braun and Drew White

A voting rights bill for felons squeaked through its final legislative hurdle last week when the state House of Representatives voted, 54-42, one more vote than the minimum needed, to agree to the state Senate’s minor tweaks.

The unexpected cliffhanger arrived, though the bill, which would restore voting rights to individuals on probation or parole who have been out of prison for five years, had already gained approval from the legislative bodies in both chambers.

The Republican-led House had a chance to reignite debate on the issue as it considered an amendment that the Senate had adopted May 16 without any objection.

“In a week, what changed?” Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said.

“You weren’t wrong seven days ago when we voted for this bill,” he added. “Your hearts were in the right place.”

Read the full story in The Ouachita Citizen.

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