Can a convicted pedophile run for public office in Louisiana? The answer: yes.
The question arose earlier this week after a change to the voting rights law in Virginia made it possible for an admitted pedophile to announce his intention to run for Congress. Why it can happen in Louisiana is because of a 2016 Louisiana Supreme Court decision that ruled a convicted felon has the right to seek public office without a cleansing period.
Lawmakers are giving voters a chance to change this—slightly—with a constitutional amendment that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Should the measure by state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, pass, a convicted felon would have to wait five years before becoming eligible for elected office. Appel originally sought to reestablish the 15-year cleansing period that had been state law until the state Supreme Court ruled it invalid two years ago.
Some attribute the situation in Virginia to a law that expanded felons’ voting rights there. However, a law passed, and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, during the legislative session expanding voting rights to more felons would not have “any effect whatsoever” on their right to run for public office, says Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, D-Baton Rouge, author of the bill.
A felon’s right to run for public office and the right to vote are two separate issues.
Under the newest law, convicted felons who have been out of prison for five years but remain on probation or parole can register to vote beginning in March 2019. Currently, only those who have completed their probation or parole can regain their right to vote.
“Some people have received life parole—they’ve been working, paying taxes and raising their families ever since they’ve been out of prison,” Smith says. “That’s taxation without representation.”
If those individuals end up going back to jail for any reason, that five-year period starts again, Smith says.