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Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 09:07 am
Having a felony conviction can make voting more complicated. But just because you have a federal conviction doesn’t neccessarily mean you’ve lost your right to vote forever. It really depends on the state you live in and the specifics of your conviction.
Voting laws are decided by each state. So while a federal conviction takes away your right to vote under federal law, your rights under your state’s laws may be different. Here’s what you need to know about how state laws handle voting rights for people with federal convictions.
Under the Constitution, states get to decide most voting rules for federal elections. This includes setting requirements like registration, voter ID laws, and restoration of voting rights.
Federal law only steps in for a few things like banning discrimination and setting the minimum voting age. Otherwise, states make the rules.
That’s why when you have a federal conviction, each state can take a different approach to whether and when your right to vote is restored.
In most states, voting rights are automatically restored after you finish your sentence, including any prison, parole or probation. This means you don’t have to apply or request to have your rights back. They are restored as soon as you are released.
Here are the 19 states where voting rights are automatically restored after incarceration:
In these states, your right to vote is restored as soon as you finish your sentence, whether you were convicted of a state or federal offense.
Some states require you to submit an application before your voting rights can be restored after a felony conviction. This includes both state and federal convictions.
Here are 12 states where you need to apply to get back your right to vote after finishing your sentence:
The application process can vary. For example, in South Carolina you need to apply for a pardon from the state parole board before you can vote again. But in Kansas, you just need to complete a voter registration form affirming your eligibility.
Check your state’s requirements so you know what steps to take to restore your voting rights after incarceration.
Some states require you to complete your sentence and wait a certain period of time before you can vote again. This applies to both state and federal convictions.
For example, in Arizona you must complete probation and then wait 2 years before applying for restoration. And in Nebraska you need to wait 2 years after finishing your sentence before your rights are restored.
Here are 9 states with waiting periods after completing a sentence:
The waiting periods range from 1-5 years depending on the state. Be aware of your state’s specific rules so you know when you’ll get back your voting rights.
In a handful of states, certain felony convictions can permanently take away your voting rights. You need to apply for a pardon or clemency from the governor or a board to restore them.
For example, in Alabama if you are convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” you lose your right to vote for life. The only way to get it back is through a pardon.
Here are 4 states where some convictions permanently revoke voting rights:
Check if your specific conviction falls under your state’s permanent disenfranchisement rules. If so, you’ll need to seek a pardon or clemency to restore your right to vote.
In most states, being on parole or probation means you temporarily lose your right to vote. Once you complete supervision, your voting rights are restored.
But in 16 states you can still vote while on parole. And in 21 states you can vote while on probation for a felony. Just be aware of your state’s rules.
For federal convictions, you cannot vote while on supervised release, which is similar to parole. Once your term ends, your right to vote is restored.
Losing your right to vote isn’t automatic with a federal conviction. Each state has its own laws on restoring voting rights after incarceration. Be sure to check the specifics for where you live.
In most states, voting rights are restored after completing all prison, parole and probation. Some require waiting periods or applications too. A handful of states permanently revoke rights for certain crimes without a pardon.
Knowing your state’s law will help you ensure your voting rights are restored. And if they aren’t, you’ll know what steps to take, like applying for a pardon, to get your right to vote back.
Voting is a fundamental right. With some research on your state’s laws, you can make sure a federal conviction doesn’t take away your voice forever.
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