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A vote for would
Constitutionally prohibit convicted non-pardoned felons from seeking or holding public office until five years after completion of sentence.
Under current statutes, a convicted felon is unqualified to seek elected office in Louisiana while under an order of imprisonment. A “public officer,” which includes elected and appointed positions, shall be removed from office if convicted of a felony. Although voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment to prevent convicted non-pardoned felons from seeking and holding public office for 15 years after completing a sentence, the Supreme Court in 2016 ruled the amendment null and void because the Legislature’s final enrolled version of the act left out a significant provision added during the legislative process.*
The proposed amendment would prohibit felons from holding or seeking elective public office or an “appointment of honor, trust or profit in this state” for five years after completing a sentence. This restriction would not apply to felons who are pardoned. The law does not specify the appointed positions that would be affected. A convicted felon would not be prohibited from employment by the state or a local government. This amendment differs from the 1998 amendment, which had a 15-year post-sentence prohibition and was silent as to government employment.
Convicted felons should not be serving in office. This amendment is particularly needed in Louisiana with its long history of corruption. Those in public office need to be held to a high standard, and the political system should not be eager to invite corrupt individuals and their cronies into the ranks of leadership and influence. This law would not prevent felons from ever holding office, just for five years after they complete a sentence. Citizens already weighed in on this issue with the 1998 amendment, which was nullified only because the courts found the Legislature failed to properly follow requirements for amending the Constitution. This amendment would reaffirm the core intent of the previous vote of the people.
Convicted felons who have completed their sentence have paid their debt to society and should be allowed to seek office and reintegrate into society without undue delay. Whether a felony conviction makes someone unsuitable for office should be an issue for the voters to decide. There is no prohibition for felons seeking a federal office; there is no need for this in Louisiana, either.
Legal Citation: Act 719 (Senate Bill 31 by Sen. Appel) of the 2018 Regular Session adding Article I, Section 10.1.
*Voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment to prevent convicted non-pardoned felons from seeking and holding public office for 15 years after they had completed a sentence. In 2016 the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the amendment null and void in the case of Shepherd v Schedler. The case was brought by former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, who had pleaded guilty in 2008 to federal felony charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Court found that the final enrolled version of the act that created the ballot item was missing a provision adopted during the legislative process. That provision authorized felons to qualify for office following completion of probation. Thus, the Court said the constitutional amendment that came before voters was not the same one the Legislature had approved. The Court held that the proposed amendment on the 1998 ballot had not conformed to state constitutional requirements.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) is an independent voice, offering solutions to public issues in Louisiana through accurate, objective research and focusing public attention on those solutions. PAR is a private, nonprofit research organization founded in 1950 and supported by membership contributions, foundation and corporate grants and special events.
For more information, media interviews or public presentation requests regarding this constitutional amendment guide, please contact PAR President Robert Travis Scott at RobertScott@parlouisiana.org.