Bill aims to restore voting rights for Oklahomans with commuted or reduced sentences

An Oklahoma law that has been in the works for three years seeks to ensure that persons who have been released from prison and have had their sentences commuted or reduced can vote.

On Tuesday afternoon, House Bill 1629 passed unanimously out of committee and is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. State Sen. George Young, one of the bill’s co-authors, stated that the legislation should have been passed years ago.

“House Bill 1629 simply clarifies and states what is already in effect to some extent,” said Young, a Democrat from Oklahoma City.

Young introduced the bill in reaction to hundreds of sentences being mitigated for simple narcotics possession in 2019. Oklahomans were freed from prison, but their voting rights were not restored since state law does not recognize commuted sentences.

“They’d finished their sentence. Their punishment was finished. The difficulty was, as you mentioned a few minutes ago, if it was a 15-year sentence and they still had five years left, there was some concern that they would be unable to vote,” Young added.

The law seeks to clarify that those people can legally vote. It passed the House in 2023 but was not taken up by the Senate.

“It is correct. It’s just. It’s fair, therefore I’m not sure what the issues were in getting that bill heard,” Young explained.

The state senator said he was pleased to see the bill pass unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it is on to Republican leadership to ensure that the bill receives the necessary floor vote before being forwarded to the governor.

“I have no assurances at all. I’m simply hopeful that because of the bill’s goodness and necessity, they’ll bring it to the floor as soon as possible so we can get it passed,” Young said.

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