February 2015 Bar Bulletin
Restoration of Voting and Gun Rights
By Kim Ositis
Assistant Law Librarian for Reference Services
In keeping with this month's theme of Rights & Wrongs, I'm going to highlight some of the resources available concerning restoring voting and gun ownership rights following a felony criminal conviction.
In 2009, the Washington Legislature passed legislation (2009 c. 325 s. 1) that accorded provisional voting rights restoration automatically to individuals convicted of felonies who are no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections (either in prison or on community custody), even if the individual has not paid his or her legal financial obligations.
Re-registering to vote is required to receive a ballot. Voting rights can be revoked if the individual commits another felony or willfully fails to make three payments during a 12-month period (RCW 29A.08.520).
The ACLU of Washington publishes excellent resources on voting right restoration and the Washington Secretary of State has additional information, including a Voter Challenge form. See aclu-wa.org/voting-rights-restoration-washington-state; and wei.sos.wa.gov/agency/osos/en/voters/Pages/felons_and_voting_rights.aspx.
Information about restoration of gun rights is one of the top five searches on our website. The Washington courts have created mandatory pattern forms (www.courts.wa.gov/forms) for a few post-conviction matters (such as vacating a criminal conviction), but none for firearms restoration. However, two counties (Douglas and Spokane) have created local forms that are available on their respective websites: www.douglascountywa.net/departments/districtcourt/restorefirearms.asp and www.spokanecounty.org/superiorcourt/content.aspx?c=1105.
Attorney's Information Bureau sells a King County-specific restoration of firearms kit through its www.doItyourselflegalkits.com website and at its King County Courthouse office next to the Law Library.
For more in-depth research, Chapter 53, "Restoration of Rights and Expungement of Record," in Volume 13 of the Washington Practice series provides commentary and sample forms. Be sure to consult the pocket part for the most current information.
For those in need of additional assistance, one of the legal clinics that the Law Library in Seattle hosts is the Reentry Clinic sponsored by Columbia Legal Services. The Reentry Clinic (held on the second Monday of the month from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m.) provides free legal services to low-income men and women with criminal records facing barriers to successful reentry.
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