by Hawaii Reporter
Should Hawaii’s incarcerated felons vote? Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa, thinks so and nearly all of his Senate colleagues backed the idea with their vote on the third reading of SB 619, SD 2 during yesterday’s crossover.
Espero acknowledged that the bill is controversial and will have difficulty passing the House, but he defended the idea saying it will help felons turn their life around. Most all of the 6,000 people in Hawaii’s prisons are serving sentences of 10 years or less, Espero noted, emphasizing they need the opportunity to become more socially responsible before they are released back into the community.
The only senator to verbally challenge Espero was Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, who joked that this is the premier bill presented by the “criminal lobby.”
Slom maintained that incarcerated felons lost their rights when violated civil rights of others and broke the law. He also noted that in Hawaii, lawmakers continue to pay more attention and concern for the perpetrators of crime rather than the victims.
The bill passed 18 to 7, with no votes from Senators Mike Gabbard, Josh Green, Fred Hemmings, Donna Kim, Clarence Nishihara, Sam Slom and Shan Tsutsui.
Should SB 619 pass the House and gain the governor’s approval, Hawaii would become the third state where it is legal for felons who are incarcerated to vote.
BILL STATUS: SB 619
The State House will consider this bill next.
Tell all the State Reps what you think by email: reps@Capitol.hawaii.gov