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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Can Ex-Felons Register To Vote?

In California, current felons cannot register to vote. But what about former convicts? 

In a parking lot in Downtown Los Angeles under the warm Southern California late-summer sunshine, James Campa sat in a booth to fill out a voter registration form with help from a social worker. He was among many attendees at Homeboy Industries' inaugural voter registration drive—one of many such events in the city on National Voter Registration Day.

According to the L.A. County registrar/recorder, Dean Logan, there are more then a million people in the greater L.A. area who are eligible to vote, but are not registered.

Like many Americans, Campa was registering for the first time. But what hindered him before is what most believe to be true.

“I had always assumed that once being a felon, it barred me from ever having an opportunity to vote,” he said.

Campa is a former gang member who was only 16 when he was imprisoned for “beating somebody up” and served 30 years in jail. After his incarceration he joined Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention organization, as a way to turn his life around.

Now that he knows he can vote, Campa said he is happy to have a voice.

According to Homeboy Industries, such misinformation is the primary issue former inmates face when it comes to eligibility to register to vote.

“In California, the rules and regulations around voter registration eligibility has changed, especially for people who have previously been incarcerated for felonies,” Logan said.

Many stress the importance of voter registration among ex-inmates. “Studies have shown that civic participation enhances better reintegration [for ex-convicts] to our community,” said Christina Dominguez, the manager of external affairs and government relation of the organization.

Campa is encouraging fellow ex-convicts to know their eligibilities.

“By the combine efforts of our voices, we gain empowerment,” he said, “not just individually but collectively as a community.”

Many resources are available to find out the criteria to register as a voter, such as


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