July 18, 2016

State Voting Rights for Felons

About 5.85 million Americans cannot vote because they were convicted of felons, according to the New York Times, which cited research done by the Washington based The Sentencing Project. But, during the last 20 years, about 20 states have restored voting rights to felons, with Virginia being the most recent one to do so.  Its governor recently issued an executive order restoring voting rights to about 200,000 convicted felons who served their prison time and finished parole or probation, the New York Times reports.

States that allow felons to vote vary in terms of conditions under which they allow felons to do so.  Virginia’s executive order places it with Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky as having the strictest restrictions.  A couple of states, including Vermont and Maine, have no voting restrictions; some restore voting rights automatically when a felon is released from prison while others do so after the felon completes the sentence, including prison, parole, and probation; and others restore rights only for felons convicted of certain criminal convictions.  The Brennan Center for Justice provides a resource map identifying each state’s provision.

Connecticut law restores voting rights automatically following release from prison or a parole discharge.  Thus, convicted felons are allowed electoral privileges while on probation.  CGS § 9-46a outlines the procedures for restoration following release, which include the correction commissioner’s certification that the person was discharged from prison and, if applicable, released from parole.  The commissioner must also notify the secretary of the state who subsequently notifies the registrar of voters in the municipality where the convicted person resided.  Once notified, the registrar must restore the released person’s voting privileges.  If that person was not an elector at the time of the felony conviction, he or she must provide proof of their qualifications to become an elector.  

The trend toward restoring felons’ voting rights shows some signs of reversing. The executive orders imposing Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky’s actually overturned previous orders allow felons to vote under less severe restrictions.