Restoring the Right to Vote of Those Convicted of a Felony

In the United States, approximately 5.9 million citizens are not allowed to vote as the result of a felony conviction. It is also important to note that whether a felony conviction leads to disenfranchisement varies from state to state.

A dozen states prohibit voting rights of convicted felons even if the prison sentence has been served and are not on probation or parole anymore. Within these 12 states, this group makes up almost 45 percent of the whole disenfranchised population. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow people with felony charges to vote, including those still in prison.

What is felony disenfranchisement?

A felony is generally considered as the most heinous crime against another person or society. These are crimes that include murder, rape, arson, and robbery. In case of a felony arrest or a felony charge , make sure to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the consequences of your felony on your voting rights. He or she can properly guide you and insure you receive proper due process, possibly preventing your loss of freedom and loss of voting rights.

Since states’ policies differ, the process of vote restoration also differs. If you are considered a felon or an ex-felon you permanently lose your right to vote in the states of Florida, Iowa and Virginia. Other states allow ex-felons to gain the right to vote after their sentence completion. There are also some states which require an ex-felon to wait for specific time frame after their sentence completion so they can vote again.

The Dilemma of Losing your Right to Vote

Once the person becomes eligible, the person will often have to undergo a difficult and complex process to restore his right to vote. This may include arduous paperwork and documentation while coordinating with several state agencies. Another hurdle that ex-violators may face is difficult lines of communication among these state agencies, which may lead to an unreliable and untimely process regardless of how clear it is on paper. The lack of readily available information to ex-offenders regarding their right to restore their voting power is another issue. Some live out the rest of their lives not knowing that they can actually vote after prison. Another obstacle for ex-convicts looking to restore their voting rights is low funding for the state agencies that process these requests.

Disallowing Felons to vote has Big Impact

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Disallowing those with felony convictions to vote has a big impact in a society. This population of 5.85 million disenfranchised citizens could have changed the fate of politicians and legislation in the United States. Restoring the right to vote allows an ex-convict to function normally again in his or her community and validates them with a sense of responsibility and worth as a member of the society.

Currently, there are reforms being instituted among states to hasten or improve the voting rights of a person. From 1997 until this writing 23 states have changed their felony disenfranchisement policies to be more inclusive of those with felony convictions.