Do People Convicted of a Felony Have the Right to Vote After Being Released from Prison?

Do People Convicted of a Felony Have the Right to Vote After Being Released from Prison?

Sometimes. There is no federal law addressing whether felons have the right to vote. But some states protect your voting rights after release. Other states take those voting rights.

When can people convicted of a felony lose their right to vote?

All 50 states have different approaches to voting rights for those with a criminal record.

In some states, a felon can lose their right to vote while in jail. In other states, a felon never loses their right to vote, even while in jail. Over the past couple of years, the laws have changed. People want to give others a chance. They want felons to get the right to vote after release.

Again, this is a state-by-state policy, and the state’s laws say different things. In Washington, D.C., Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even when in jail. In 18 other states, felons lose their voting rights while in jail, but they get them back upon release.

Are voting rights restored after release?

Some states may take away voting rights for felons forever. Other states give them their voting rights when they release them from prison. The laws differ from state to state.

Image asking do felons have the right to vote?
Image courtesy of iStock.

The severity of laws varies from state-to-state. A state may take away a felon’s right to vote if they face serious misdemeanor charges. In California, Connecticut and New York, someone with a felony on their record may vote automatically when released. If they have parole, they get the right to vote when their parole is over.

There are 17 states, including Washington, D.C., where you can vote immediately after your sentence ends. A felon’s parole does not matter in these states. 

There are 11 states where a felon can never vote again because of seriousness of their crime. They would need a pardon from the state’s governor to get back their voting rights. 

As of Aug. 5, 2020, no states have a total ban on voting by former felons.

Do people convicted of a felony get their right to vote back automatically?

A felon does not get their right to vote back immediately after their release. Prison officials inform election officials that they restored the felon’s voting rights. It is then the felon’s responsibility to handle re-registering to vote. 

Image asking do felons have the right to vote?
Image courtesy of Romikmk via Getty Images.

This is important because of what information you need to register to vote. You need:

  • An address,
  • A driver’s license, or
  • A Social Security Number

These can be difficult to get after release from prison.

The Takeaway: 

The decision to take away or restore someone convicted of a felony’s right to vote is a state-by-state policy. The trend is leaning toward restoring the right to vote. Currently, 5.85 million Americans with felony convictions don’t have the right to vote. But many states have passed different laws in the past couple of years.

These laws include cover many areas, including:

  • Restoring your right to vote when you’re on probation
  • Improving data-sharing procedures among states
  • Helping you regain your voting rights after release
  • Simplifying the process
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