One of the many items that California voters will be faced with on Nov. 3 is Proposition 17, which would restore voting rights for convicted felons on parole. As the election quickly approaches, the issue has drawn a distinct line between supporters and opponents of the measure.
Esteban Nunez, 31, is part of the Yes on Prop. 17 campaign and believes voting is a way to accept former inmates back into society.
Nunez, the son of ex-California politician Fabian Nunez, served seven years for his role in the 2008 stabbing death of Luis Santos, a 22-year-old college student.
Nunez was supposed to serve 16 years but had his sentence reduced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on his last night in office. The controversial move resulted in a lawsuit and Schwarzenegger admitted it was a favor for the former assembly speaker.
"When I was inside I read a lot of newspapers. I read three papers everyday. It often feels like time just freezes when you're inside. All you know is the world you're in proximity to. So when I came home I felt like I was really just in tune with current events. I was really up to speed on what's been going on around the world and was really actually looking forward to voting," said Esteban Nunez.
That's when Nunez's parole officer told him he couldn't vote and Nunez missed the 2016 election, but was off parole in time to vote in the 2018 midterms. California is one of only three states that requires people convicted of felonies to complete both prison and parole sentences before regaining their right to vote.
"One thing I learned is that so many people in prison have endless potential and that reminded me just of myself. We're in these circumstances that they couldn't escape and made horrible decisions, but doesn't define who they are as individuals," Nunez said.
Those who oppose the proposed measure see it differently.
"I think they're interested in more votes and there's a greater likelihood that the criminal is going to vote democratic than republican," said California State Senator Jim Nielsen.
Nielsen is opposed to Prop. 17 and says convicted felons shouldn't be rewarded with the right to vote until after they complete their full sentence.
"It's an egregious injustice, particularly to the victims, who have suffered at the hands of criminals. They're ignoring that there must be consequences for continued criminality and particularly for serious crimes, like rape and murder," he said.
There are roughly 40,000 Californians who have completed their prison sentences but are unable to vote because they're on parole.