Since today is Election Day, we would like to highlight the changes in the abilities of formerly incarcerated people's right to vote. It has been a common practice in the United States to make people with felony convictions ineligible to vote, which can be permanent. However, more and more states are restoring the voting rights for justice involved individuals. In fact, in the District of Columbia, Maine and Vermont they never lose the right to vote.
The importance of giving a voice to people
Because of the recent changes in laws, many people practiced their right to vote for the first time last year. Earnest Pervall is a former inmate who had his right restored for the first time last year, just in time for the 2020 presidential election.
“The first time I voted, it was an awesome feeling because I feel as though I had a voice - my vote counted,” Pervall said. “I said I would like to put this person in the office, and I had a voice for the first time. So for me to vote, it spoke volumes because it was my first time hearing my voice in the public.” - Pervall
Otha Holden was only 18 when he got sentenced to 9 years in prison.
“I’ve always been a fighter,” Holden said. “I got a college degree; I got a four-year plumbing apprenticeship, I got my class A CDL, I’m a three-year licensed driver. The one thing I couldn’t accomplish was getting my rights back. I didn’t have the right to vote even though I had an opinion on so many different issues. I have never voted for a governor in Virginia. I was in tears, man.”
Restoration of voting rights after felony conviction
Many people are not aware of their rights. Not just because it’s a long held belief that everyone loses their voting rights after being incarcerated, but also because the laws can change every year.
If you have a felony conviction, this table gives you direction on your state’s specific laws regarding the restoration of voting rights after a felony conviction.
If you need additional guidance, please contact your local election official.