All too often basic Constitutional rights are taken for granted by the Americans who hold them. These include the right to bear arms, run for office, and even vote. To most, these are simply a part of what it means to be an American citizen. After all, they are guaranteed by the Constitution. Right?
For most, this statement would be correct. For most Americans the right to own a firearm, run for president, or vote for their state senator are protected. But for a growing class in America, these very rights have been stripped from them. They have been restricted because of a criminal conviction.
The maze of voting laws alone is staggering because of the differences from state to state. Luckily, the Federal Bureau of Prisons realized this and distributed to its inmate population a very helpful document entitled ‘Criminal Disenfranchisement Laws Across The United States,’ which provides a state-by-state overview of voting laws.
What follows are excerpts from this government-issued document. Hopefully this will inform readers -- in particular those with past criminal convictions – as to who can vote and in which state after being convicted of a crime.
Permanent disenfranchisement for all people with felony convictions, unless government approves individual rights restoration
Permanent disenfranchisement for at least some people with criminal convictions, unless government approves individual rights restoration
Alabama: People with certain felony convictions involving moral turpitude can apply to have their voting rights restored upon completion of sentence and payment of fines and fees; people convicted of some specific crimes are permanently barred from voting.
Arizona: People convicted of one felony can have their voting rights restored upon completion of sentence, including all prison, parole, and probation terms and payment of legal financial obligations. People convicted of two or more felonies are permanently barred from voting unless pardoned or restored by a judge.
Delaware: People with felony convictions can have their voting rights restored five years after completion of sentence and payment of fines and fees. People who are convicted of certain disqualifying felonies are permanently disenfranchised.
Florida: Most people with felony convictions have their right to vote restored upon completion of sentence and payment of restitution. People with certain felony convictions, mostly violent crimes or sexual offenses, must individually apply for restoration of rights or complete a fifteen-year waiting period.
Mississippi: People who are convicted of any often types of disqualifying offenses, including felonies and misdemeanors, are permanently disenfranchised. Others never lose the right to vote.
Nevada: The right to vote is automatically restored to people convicted of first-time non-violent felonies upon completion of sentence. People with multiple felony convictions and those convicted of violent felonies cannot vote unless pardoned or granted a restoration of civil rights from the court in which they were convicted.
Tennessee: People convicted of some felonies after 1981 can have their voting rights restored if they have completed their full sentences, paid all restitution, and are current with child support payments. People convicted of certain felonies cannot regain the right to vote unless pardoned.
Wyoming: People convicted of a non-violent felony for the first time can have their rights restored five years after completion of sentence. People with multiple felony convictions and those convicted of violent felonies are permanently barred from voting, unless pardoned or restored to rights by the Governor.
Voting rights restored upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole and probation
Voting rights restored automatically after release from prison and discharge from parole (probationers may vote)
Voting rights restored automatically after release from prison
District of Columbia
No disenfranchisement for people with criminal convictions
1 Under Arkansas law, failure to satisfy legal financial obligations associated with convictions may result in
post-sentence loss of voting rights.
2 In Nebraska, voting rights are restored two years after the completion of sentence.
3 Under Washington law, failure to satisfy legal financial obligations associated with convictions may result
in post-sentence loss of voting rights.