FELONY CONVICTION AND THE RIGHT TO VOTE
The question of whether a person convicted of a felony offense can vote requires the individual to look to the person's resident state. The answer varies widely from state to state, ranging from not losing the right to vote to requirements and waiting periods to restore a person's right to vote after a felony conviction. The below information does not address the situation where a person has received a pardon.
How the right to vote after a felony conviction is handled can be divided into four categories. Table 1 below illustrates the differences. Table 2 sets forth the separate policies of the eleven states requiring additional action to restore the right to vote.
NEVER LOSE RIGHT TO VOTE:
- District of Columbia
LOST ONLY WHILE INCARCERATED:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
LOST UNTIL SENTENCE COMPLETE
(INCLUDES INCARCERATION, PROBATION, PAROLE):
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
LOST UNTIL SENTENCE COMPLETE
(INCLUDES INCARCERATION, PROBATION, PAROLE)
POST SENTENCING WAITING PERIOD/ ACTION REQUIRED
TO RESTORE (SEE TABLE 2 BELOW):
TABLE 2 - POLICIES FOR RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS
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).
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. § 13-907). 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. § 13-908).
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.
In 2018, an initiated constitutional amendment restored the right to vote for those with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, who must still petition the governor for restoration of voting rights on a case-by-case basis. In July 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 7066, which defined “completion of sentence” to include release from imprisonment, termination of any ordered probation, fulfillment of any terms ordered by the courts, termination of any ordered supervision, full payment of any ordered restitution and the full payment of any ordered fines, fees or costs (Flor. Stat. §98.0751).
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 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds issued Executive Order 7, which restores voting rights to all who have completed felony sentences, except those convicted of homicide and related crimes.
“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). Gov. Andy Beshear restored voting rights to individuals with former non-violent felony convictions via executive order in 2019. Gov. Steve Beshear had originally done so in 2015, though Gov. Matt Bevin reversed that 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).
“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).
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).
The Tennessee Constitution denies the right to vote to 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).
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 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released an executive action that allows any person released from incarceration to qualify for restoration of voting rights. In 2023, Gov. Glenn Youngkin reversed that practice and began requiring individuals to apply for rights restoration once again.
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).