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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Project Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Voting Rights for Convicted Felons

2016 July 22

2016 has seen several state legislators propose changes in the regulation of voting rights for individuals with felonies, and the timeframe for felons to receive the right to vote.

The ability for a convicted felon to vote depends on the state, and ranges from several states such as Alabama, whose policy dictates that felons must apply to be able to vote, to others like Vermont and Rhode Island, who allow convicted felons in prison to submit absentee ballots to vote in elections.

Several states have taken up this divisive issue, with California and Maryland successfully changing laws to expand voting rights to felons, while Louisiana chose not to amend the rights of its convicted felons within the state.

In Louisiana, HB 598 would have granted voting rights to convicted felons immediately following their release from incarceration, regardless if the individual is on probation or parole.  

The bill, which was defeated by a 60 to 37 margin, would have altered current state law which requires convicted felons to finish their probation or parole sentences before registering to vote.

Supporters of changing voting rights laws for felons state that restoring voting rights to these individuals would help them reintegrate post release, with Rep. Pat Smith arguing that these individuals “can’t be good citizens if they can’t vote.”

Opponents argue that by committing a crime, ex-prisoners have shown lack of trustworthiness, character, or mental competency, thus forfeiting their right to vote.  

In California, Assembly Bill 2466 grants voting rights to individuals on probation or ...

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