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Sanders says felons should be able to vote from behind bars

While several of the dozen states with a lifetime ban on voting by felons are considering an easing of restrictions, Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to go one big step further: The Democratic presidential candidate says people convicted of felonies should never lose access to the ballot box, even while they're incarcerated.

That policy is now in place only in his home state of Vermont and neighboring Maine. Sanders said that if he becomes president he'd support nationalizing it. "In my state, what we do is separate. You're paying a price, you committed a crime, you're in jail. That's bad," he told an audience Saturday in Iowa. "But you're still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do."

No other presidential candidate has called for permitting all people behind bars to vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has called for the automatic restoration of the franchise to all felons after they're out of prison, which is the law in 14 states and Washington, D.C. In 22 states, felon voting rights are restored after completion of parole or probation.

Iowa, where the caucuses will kick off the presidential nominating process next winter, is one of a handful of states where felons can vote again only if they win permission from the governor. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds wants to make the restoration automatic, a proposal that was approved by the GOP-run state House but blocked last week by the GOP-majority state Senate.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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