- In some states, ex-convicts or current inmates are allowed to vote in any election.jail in calico ghost town, arizona image by Albo from Fotolia.com
The U.S Constitution guarantees citizens the right to vote but gives a provision against those who have committed crimes. While the federal government has not mandated one way or the other whether convicted criminals should be stripped of the right to vote, each state has implemented various rules applicable to various ex-felons.
Constitutional Right to Vote
- The 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants all male citizens who are at least 21 years old the right to vote. The 15th and 19th amendments removed race and gender restrictions, respectively, the 24th amendment abolished the poll tax, and the 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18 years. The 14th amendment does include a limitation on the right to vote, however, stating those involved in rebellion or other crimes are not allowed to vote.
Definition of a Felony
- Generally, a felony is considered a crime serious enough to be punishable by the death sentence or by more than one year in prison. Felonies are often distinguished as either first-, second- or third-degree felonies, with first-degree felonies being the most severely punished.
State-Specific Voting Restrictions
- The Constitutional interpretation of an individual's involvement in rebellion or other crimes has been left up to the respective states.
Two states, Kentucky and Virginia, don't allow any ex-felons to vote, except when granted the right by petitioning the governor. Thirteen states allow felons to vote once they are released from prison: Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Utah. Maine and Vermont allow both incarcerated and ex-felons to vote regardless of previous convictions or current sentencing. All other states withhold voting rights until after the completion of probation or parole.