Nearly 11,500 parolees in Colorado now can legally vote under a law that took effect Monday broadening voting rights for people convicted of felony crimes.
State lawmakers this year passed the legislation as part of a criminal justice reform package. Before Monday, parolees had to complete their sentences before being able to cast a ballot.
Prison inmates still are barred from voting in Colorado.
People convicted of felonies were already allowed to vote in Colorado after they completed their sentences, unlike in some other states.
Advocates for the change hope that allowing parolees to vote will help them feel more vested in their communities, which may lead to lower recidivism rates.
“If you vote you’re more likely not to commit a crime,” state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, told The Colorado Sun earlier this year. She was one of the lead proponents of the change.
MORE: Read more politics and government coverage from The Colorado Sun.
She added: “You’re more likely to actually give back to nonprofits and your community and volunteer.”
In all, 11,467 people on parole in Colorado will now be able to vote.
Colorado already allowed parolees to preregister to vote once their sentences were completed. There were 21 people who had completed that process and became registered voters on Monday.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said the new law is an example of Colorado’s achievements in expanding voting access.
The Colorado Department of Corrections says it is working to implement the new law and make sure parolees are aware of what it means for them.
“Our parole team is working on ways to help inform parolees of the new law,” spokeswoman Annie Skinner said. “Currently we have established in policy that during the intake process, parolees will be informed of this change and their rights. We are also going to be working with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition to come into our Aurora office and work with parolees who want to register. We will be posting information in our parole office lobbies about the new law and registering to vote. “
A host of other Colorado laws went into effect on Monday, from one banning vaping anywhere smoking is already prohibited, like restaurants and workplaces, to a new program helping lower-income people find higher-paying jobs.