Boyd, a barrel-chested man whose rich laugh comes from the belly, served time for a drug offense, completing parole in 2000. Two months ago, he learned he could join other Americans at the polls.
That discovery came at the Union Rescue Mission, where Boyd was interviewed by Matthew Cardinale, a researcher from UC Irvine investigating ex-felons' feelings and misconceptions about their voting rights.
Cardinale, a graduate student in sociology with a research grant from the Sentencing Project, said he was disturbed that millions of citizens had been excluded from that most democratic of rituals: voting. Through interviews with 50 ex-convicts -- which Cardinale called a statistically significant sample -- he found that of those who had regained the right to vote, only 2% had done so.
"I think losing the right to vote is so alienating for them that they conclude, 'This is a system that just doesn't care about me,' " Cardinale said.
James Kendrick, 52, thinks right along those lines. With a gravelly voice, crew cut, dark sunglasses and tattoos snaking up his arms, Kendrick spent 32 years in California prisons for kidnapping, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Kendrick was paroled in 1997 and got his life in order. An evangelical preacher now living at the Rescue Mission, he has strong opinions about the world, especially about the war in Iraq.
"Our president's in there," he said. "We need to let him run with the ball."
But Kendrick said he won't be voting come election day.
"I don't see the point of it," he said. "I figure, as soon as they see I'm an ex-con, they'd trash my ballot anyway. They don't want me voting."
First-timer Boyd isn't sure what "they" want, but he knows what he wants.
As the big day approaches, Boyd, who attends computer repair school, has done a lot of pondering. He's always been a supporter of President Bush -- "because he's been good to us vets" -- but the candidate debates allowed a whisper of doubt to creep in.
"Basically, I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Boyd said. "I believe in apple pie and John Wayne and Ronald Reagan.... But I'm bipartisan.... Who will I pick? Right now, I guess I'm on the fence."
Julius Dowell, who spent the 1990s bouncing in and out of California jails and prisons on burglary and drug convictions, is another who only recently discovered he was eligible to vote.
"I thought I needed a governor's pardon," he said. "And I figured that wasn't going to happen."
Dowell said that immediately after his release from prison, voting was not his top priority. His mind was on "trying to get it together, trying to figure out how to fit in," find a job, stay off booze and cocaine.
Five years later, he's sober, dressed neatly in a blue polo shirt and running the mission's transitional living unit.
"I'm not who I used to be," Dowell said. "I've proven my worth, I've changed my behavior.... I'm going to be there in November. I'm going to cast my vote."