- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers in the Louisiana House refused Wednesday to give felons the right to vote as soon as they exit prison.

Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, proposed to let convicted felons register to vote while they are on parole, probation or suspended sentences - but out of jail. Currently, felons have to wait until they finish probation or parole.

Supporters said giving people back their voting rights helps to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society.

Smith described a man who holds a job, pays taxes but can’t vote because he’s been on probation for 20 years.

“We need to encourage them to be good citizens of Louisiana. They really can’t be good citizens if they can’t vote,” Smith said.

Opponents were reticent about immediately restoring what they described as a “sacred right” without time elapsing from the prison sentence.

Only 37 lawmakers voted for the bill. Sixty voted against it.

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House Bill 598: www.legis.la.gov

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