Felon voting rights
According to the Brennan Center, two states deny the vote indefinitely to all people with felony convictions. Ten others enforce laws that prevent some people with convictions from voting even after they have completed their sentences. Across the country, state disenfranchisement laws bar nearly five million Americans from the polls. In five southern states with indefinite denials, 25% of African-American males are permanently denied from voting.
In 48 states and the District of Columbia, people are denied the right to vote in prison. In 35 states, this denial is extended to people on probation and/or on parole. At the other end of the spectrum, Maine and Vermont allow prison inmates to vote.
Permanent Denial of voting rights (8 states):
- Kentucky: All felons
- Virginia: All felons
- Nevada: All felons, except upon first-time non-violent offense
- Arizona: Second felony offense
- Alabama: Certain offenses
- Florida: Certain violent offenses
- Mississippi: Certain offenses
- Tennessee: Certain offenses
Temporary Denials continuing after completion of all prison, probation, and parole (3 states):
- Wyoming: 5 years
- Delaware: 5 years
- Nebraska: 2 years
Denial of voting rights to inmates only (13 states + D.C.):
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
The remaining 24 states deny voting rights to probationers and/or parolees in addition to prisoners.
Restoration of Voting Rights
In those states where voting rights may be permanently denied, there are usually mechanisms to seek reinstatement. The effectiveness of these procedures varies widely.
In Alabama, starting in 2004, felons may apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to Vote from the Board of Pardons and Parole. Although more than 3000 people per year have their voting rights restored, the Board is overwhelmed with applications. Most (82%) are not reviewed before the required deadline, leaving the applicants without rights. The number of people remaining disenfranchised after completing their sentences was 180,000 in 2004, and continues to grow.
In Florida, despite efforts at reform, the restoration process remains complicated and backlogged. More than 900,000 persons remain disenfranchised following completion of their sentence. Less than 15,000 per year have their rights restored by the state Clemency Board.
In Tennessee, the process has been reformed recently, but nearly 100,000 people are still denied voting rights after completion of their sentence.
In Virginia, the restoration process has accelerated, although the waiting period it still at least three years (five years for violent offenses, drug sales, or electoral crimes). Despite the increased efforts to restore voting rights, fewer than 1,000 persons per year have had their rights restored.
- "New Florida Felon Voting Rules Fall Short, Critics Say" by Michelle Chen in The New Standard (April 10, 2007)
- "Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States" by The Sentencing Project (April 2007)
- "A Decade of Reform: Felony Disenfranchisement Policy in the United States" by Ryan S. King of The Sentencing Project (October 2006)