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Felon Voting Rights

 

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  • In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated. 
  • In 16 states and the District of Columbia, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated, and receive automatic restoration upon release.
  • In 21 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a period of time after, typically while on parole and/or probation. Voting rights are automatically restored after this time period. Former felons may also have to pay any outstanding fines, fees or restitution before their rights are restored as well. 
  • In 11 states felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, or require a governor’s pardon in order for voting rights to be restored, face an additional waiting period after completion of sentence (including parole and probation) or require additional action before voting rights can be restored. These states are listed in the fourth category on Table 1. Details on these states are found in Table 2 below.

Table One: Restoration of Voting Rights After Felony Convictions

Never Lose Right to Vote

Lost Only While Incarcerated | Automatic Restoration After Release

Lost Until Completion of Sentence (Parole and/or Probation) | Automatic Restoration After

Lost Until Completion of Sentence | In Some States a Post-Sentencing Waiting Period | Additional Action Required for Restoration (1)

Maine

Colorado

Alaska

Alabama

Vermont

District of Columbia

Arkansas

Arizona

 

Hawaii

California (2)

Delaware

 

Illinois

Connecticut

Florida (4)

 

Indiana

Georgia

Iowa

 

Maryland (3)

Idaho

Kentucky

 

Massachusetts

Kansas

Mississippi

 

Michigan

Louisiana

Nebraska

 

Montana

Minnesota

Tennessee

 

Nevada

Missouri

Virginia

 

New Jersey

New Mexico

Wyoming

 

New Hampshire

New York (5)

 

 

North Dakota

North Carolina

 

 

Ohio

Oklahoma

 

 

Oregon

South Carolina

 

 

Pennsylvania

South Dakota

 

 

Rhode Island

Texas

 

 

Utah

Washington

 

 

 

West Virginia

 

 

 

Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

Table Two: Details on Policies for Restoration of Rights

State

Details on Policies for Restoration of Rights

Alabama

The Alabama Constitution states that “No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, or who is mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights or removal of disability” (Ala. Const. Art. VIII, § 177). Before 2017 there was no comprehensive list of felonies that involve moral turpitude which would disqualify a person from voting. In 2017, HB 282 defined which crimes fit this category (Ala. Code § 17-3-30.1).

Arizona

A conviction for a felony suspends the rights of the person to vote (A.R.S. § 13-904) unless they have been restored to civil rights (Ariz. Const. Art. 7 § 2). First-time offenders have rights restored upon completion of probation and payment of any fine or restitution (A.R.S. § 13-912). A person who has been convicted of two or more felonies may have civil rights restored by the judge who discharges him at the end of the term of probation or by applying to the court for restoration of rights (A.R.S. § 13-905).

Delaware

People who are convicted of disqualifying felonies (murder, bribery, sexual offenses) are permanently disenfranchised. Those disqualified as a voter because of another type of felony shall have the disqualification removed upon being pardoned or after the expiration of the sentence, whichever comes first (Del. Const., Art. 5, § 2). In 2013 (HB 10) Delaware removed its five-year waiting period, allowing those convicted of non-disqualifying offenses to vote upon completion of sentence and supervision.

Florida

Felons must have completed all terms of sentence, which includes probation and parole, and must pay any oustanding fines or fees before they can get their voting rights restored (Flor. Stat. §98.0751). 

Iowa

A person convicted of any infamous crime shall not be entitled to the privilege of an elector (Iowa Const. Art. 2, § 5). In 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the ban on felon voting, finding that all felonies are “infamous crimes” resulting in permanent disenfranchisement (Griffin v. Pate, 2016). The ability of the governor to restore voting rights to persons convicted of infamous crimes through pardoning power was upheld in State v. Richardson, 2017. In 2005 Governor Tom Vilsack restored voting rights to individuals with former felony convictions via executive order. Governor Terry Branstad reversed this executive order in 2011.

Kentucky

“Persons convicted of treason, or felony, or bribery in an election, or of such high misdemeanor as the General Assembly may declare shall operate as an exclusion from the right of suffrage, but persons hereby excluded may be restored to their civil rights by executive pardon” (KY Const. § 145). Governor Steve Beshear restored voting rights to individuals with former non-violent felony convictions via executive order in 2015. Governor Matt Bevin reversed this executive order shortly after taking office in 2015. The Department of Corrections is required to promulgate administrative regulations for restoration of civil rights to eligible felony offenders (KRS §196.045).

Mississippi

“A person convicted of murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy is no longer considered a qualified elector” (Miss. Const. Art. 12, § 241). If an individual hasn’t committed one of these offenses, rights are automatically restored. If an individual has been convicted of one of these, he or she can still receive a pardon from the governor to restore voting rights (Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-41) or by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature (Miss. Const. Art. 12, § 253).

Nebraska

In felony cases, there is a two-year waiting period after completion of probation for the restoration of voting rights (Neb. Rev. St. § 29-2264).

Tennessee

The Tennessee Constitution denies the right to vote persons convicted of an infamous crime (Tenn. Const. Art. 1, § 5). Any felony is considered an “infamous crime” and disqualifies a person from exercising the right of suffrage (T.C.A. § 40-20-112). Those convicted of infamous crimes may petition for restoration upon completion of the sentence or be pardoned by the governor (T.C.A. § 40-29-101, § 2-19-143). Proof of restoration is needed in order to register to vote (T.C.A. § 2-2-139).

Virginia

No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority (VA Const. Art. 2, § 1). The Department of Corrections is required to provide persons convicted of felonies with information regarding voting rights restoration, and assist with the process established by the governor for the review of applications (VA Code Ann. § 53.1-231.1 et seq.). Individuals with felony convictions may petition the courts in an attempt to restore their voting rights (VA Code Ann. § 53.1-231.2). In 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced an executive order automatically restoring voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their prison sentence and their term of supervised release (parole or probation) as of April 22, 2016. The Virginia Supreme Court subsequently ruled that rights restoration needs to take place on an individual basis, rather than en masse.

Wyoming

A person convicted of a felony is not a qualified elector unless his rights are restored (W.S. § 6-10-106). For persons convicted of nonviolent felonies or a first-time offender, rights are restored automatically (W.S. § 7-13-105). Persons who do not meet the above qualifications must be pardoned (W.S. § 6-10-106).

 

 

 

Additional Resources

For more detailed information on state legislation dealing with the voting rights of convicted felons, visit NCSL’s 2011-current Election Legislation Database and select the subtopic “Voters-Felon Voting Rights.” For legislation from the period 2001-2010, visit NCSL’s 2001-2010 Election Legislation Database.

  • If you’re looking for information on how you or someone else can regain the right to vote, NCSL is unable to help with or offer advice on this process. We suggest that you contact election officialsin the appropriate jurisdiction to get the most current and accurate information available.
  • If you’re seeking general information on state policies regarding felon voting rights, please contact NCSL’s elections teamfor more information by email or at 303-364-7700.
  • The Sentencing Projectis an advocacy group that offers information on felon disenfranchisement in the states. Its page Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer contains a state-by-state chronology of state action on felony disenfranchisement laws since 1997.  
  • The Restoration of Rights Project, from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, also provides assistance on felon disenfranchisement.