16 November 2018

Felony Disenfrachisement In The U.S.

This year, Florida gave 1.4 million people with felony criminal records the right to vote, although this is still denied to people who were convicted of murder and sex offenses. But, quite a few other states do prevent people convicted of felonies who have fully served their sentences from voting.

Felony disenfranchisement is broad in seven states: Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada, Iowa, Kentucky, and Wyoming.

While felony disenfranchisement is, in principle, broad in Virginia, a blanket restoration of civil rights by the Governor has virtually eliminated felony disenfranchisement there in practice.

Something similar to the Virginia case happened in Iowa, but that was then reversed:

In Iowa in July 2005, Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order restoring the right to vote for all persons who had completed supervision. On October 31, 2005, Iowa's Supreme Court upheld mass re-enfranchisement of convicted felons. But, on his inauguration day, January 14, 2011, Republican Governor Terry Branstad reversed Vilsack's executive order, disenfranchising thousands of people.

According to Wikipedia (citations omitted) they are as follows:


Seven states have laws that relate disenfranchisement to the detail of the crime. These laws restore voting rights to some offenders on the completion of incarceration, parole, and probation. Other offenders must make an individual petition that could be denied.
[Ed. I have further divided this list into states with narrow and broad disenfranchisement statutes.]
[Ed. Narrow Circumstantial Disenfranchisement] 
  • Delaware – The following crimes require a pardon: murder or manslaughter (except vehicular homicide), an offense against public administration involving bribery or improper influence or abuse of office anywhere in the USA, or a felony sexual offense (anywhere in the USA). All other convicted felons regain the right to vote after completion of the full sentence.
  • Florida. A convicted person loses suffrages if their crime was murder or any sexual offense. In November 2018, the lifetime voting ban was lifted for those convicted of lesser crimes upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.
  • Tennessee – A person who is convicted of certain felonies may not regain voting rights except through pardon. These include: murder, rape, treason, and voting fraud. For a person convicted of a lesser felony, disenfranchisement ends after terms of incarceration, completion of parole, and completion of probation. In addition, the person must pay "Any court order restitution paid; current in the payment of any child support obligations; and/or Any court ordered court costs paid". The ex-offender must either obtain a court order restoring their right to vote or complete the certificate of restoration of voting rights.
[Ed. Broad Circumstantial Disenfranchisement]
  • Alabama – A person convicted of a felony loses the ability to vote if the felony involves moral turpitude. Prior to 2017, the state Attorney General and courts have decided this for individual crimes; however, in 2017, moral turpitude was defined by House Bill 282 of 2017, signed into law by Kay Ivey on May 24, to constitute 47 specific offenses.If a convicted person loses the ability to vote based on having committed a defined act of moral turpitude, he can petition to have it restored by a pardon or by a certificate of eligibility; if the loss of elective franchise was based on a crime not under moral turpitude, eligibility to vote is automatically restored once all sentence conditions have been satisfied. Prior to 2017, a person convicted of a number of crimes having to do with sexual assault or abuse, including sodomy, was ineligible to receive a certificate of eligibility; today, only impeachment and treason remain ineligible for a certificate of eligibility.
  • Arizona – Rights are restored to first-time felony offenders. Others must petition.
  • Mississippi – A convicted person loses suffrage for numerous crimes identified in the state constitution, Section 241 (see note). The list is given below. Suffrage can be restored to an individual by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature. The crimes that disqualify a person from voting are given in Section 241 of the state constitution as: murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy.
  • Nevada – Rights are restored to first time and non-violent offenders. All others may, "petition a court of competent jurisdiction for an order granting the restoration of his or her civil rights".

Individual petitions required

Four states require individual petition to the court for restoration of voting after all offenses.
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky – Only the governor can reinstate Civil Rights. The ex-offender must complete "Application for Restoration of Civil Rights". The governor has discretion to restore voting rights.[Every year since 2007, the Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would amend the state constitution to restore voting rights to some non-violent offenders, but as of 2016, the bill has not passed the state Senate.
  • Virginia – Only the governor can reinstate civil rights. In 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe restored rights to "individuals who have been convicted of a felony and are no longer incarcerated or under active supervision . . . In addition to confirming completion of incarceration and supervised release, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia considers factors such as active warrants, pre-trial hold, and other concerns that may be flagged by law enforcement. . . . The Governor will review SOC's analysis of each individual's record and will make the final decision on proposed candidates for restoration of rights."
  • Wyoming – A person convicted of a felony can, after serving the full sentence including any probation and parole, apply to the state governor to have suffrage restored. Since July 1, 2003, first-time, non-violent offenders have to wait 5 years before applying to the state parole board for restoration of suffrage. The parole board has the discretion to decide whether to reinstate rights on an individual basis.

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