Felon Disenfranchisement

First, let’s define that term: felon disenfranchisement refers to the removal of felon’s right to vote to vote. In most states, after conviction of a felony, the convicted person loses his or her right to vote, in both federal and state elections. Maine and Vermont are the only states which currently do not remove (disenfranchise) people who have criminal convictions.

Pennsylvania has rather lenient disenfranchisement laws. As a general rule, voting rights are restored automatically after release from prison. Now, the individual still may have to re-register to vote. Some counties perform regular purging of their voter registration for inactive voters after a certain number of years. If you have been convicted of a crime you should have no problem regaining your Pennsylvania voting rights; just register as you would have when you began voting. The unfortunate problem is that some voting personnel are ignorant of the voting laws. If anyone tries to stop you from voting, merely because you have been convicted, inform them of their misperception.

Wyoming is a different story, a felon does not automatically regain their voting rights, and some can never regain their rights. Wyoming felon disenfranchisement was a subject I studied in-depth during my time with the American Civil Liberties Union, so forgive me if I go into a little more depth than you might feel you need.

Wyoming’s voting system and court system are tied together in the state databases. So when an individual is convicted, their voter registration is automatically flagged and removed. After getting out of prison and successfully completing parole, a felon may apply to the Parole Board for the restoration of voting rights. Most county clerk’s offices have a packet of information to assist you with the process. Normally, a person does not need a lawyer to assist them with this process, although some find it helpful. The Parole Board has no discretion in returning rights so long as the individual meets the criteria in the application. A violent felon, or a repeat offender has a more difficult time regaining voting rights and must go through the governor’s office; this is a discretionary decision for the governor.

When convicted of a misdemeanor, you should not lose your voting rights. Again, some personnel may have a misperception and tell you that you cannot vote, but again, merely correct that person. If you are incarcerated for a misdemeanor crime during the time an election is occurring, you may request an absentee ballot and vote that way.