Most states do not allow citizens who are convicted of felonies to vote, in addition to denying them a number of other privileges only given to non-felons. When a person has no right to vote, they are referred to as "disenfranchised." Each state has its own law and may restrict voting rights in different ways. For example, some states permanently strip a felon of their right to vote, whereas others will allow a felon to vote after they serve their sentence. There is no federal law regarding voting rights of convicted felons.
Can I Restore My Right to Vote as a Convicted Felon?
In many states it is possible for a felon to restore voting rights after serving your sentence. There may be additional requirements, such as paying fines or being on parole. Whether or not that felon will be able to restore voting right depends on the law of their state.
A Brief Rundown of State Laws Regarding Restoration of the Right to Vote
How the right to vote is restricted and whether you can restore it after a felony conviction varies from state to state. Below is a listing of some approaches to restricting and restoring the right to vote:
- Maine and Vermont – These states do not restrict voting rights in any way; even prisoners are allowed to vote.
- Illinois, Michigan, and the District of Columbia – These states as well as a handful of others restore the right to vote to those who are out of prison, on probation, or on parole
- California, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York – These states allow people who are on probation to vote; however, those who are in prison or on parole you do not have the right to vote
- New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin – These states, along with many others, do not allow people who are in prison, on probation, or on parole to vote
- Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee – These states, as well as others, permanently strip the right to vote for those convicted of certain felonies. The felonies that qualify differ in each state.
- Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia – these states permanently disenfranchise anyone who is convicted of a felony – in other words, if you are convicted of a felony in any of these states you will lose your right to vote permanently.
If I Can Restore My Right to Vote, How Do I Do it?
The process for restoring the right to vote will vary from state to state. Many times it will involve some kind of complicated pardon or clemency process. On top of this, restoration of voting rights is a well kept secret. That is, officials are unlikely to inform convicted felons about their voting rights and the fact that they can be restored. Moreover, there is an increasing trend in allowing felons to ask to have voting rights restored after a certain period of time has passed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
The laws regarding voting rights for convicted felons are undergoing great changes, and there has been a strong push towards restoring the voting rights of convicted felons. Because of this, laws are constantly changing and a criminal defense lawyer will be able to help you determine whether you are eligible to have your voting right restored. If you are eligible, a lawyer can help you with the process as well.