Should Former Felons Ever Be Allowed to Vote?

As of July 15, 2013, felons convicted of non-violent offenses in Virginia will have their voting rights automatically restored after they’ve finished their sentences (including parole, probation, restitution and other court-ordered actions) and have no pending charges.

The qualifying non-violent convictions currently range from bank or welfare fraud to breaking and entering without a weapon and DUI. Drug possession is also considered non-violent as long as there was no conviction of intent to distribute.

In short, if money, property or an identity was stolen and no one was hurt or killed in the process, chances are the ex-felon can have his civil rights restored.

This will make Virginia one of 20 states that restore voting rights after the term of their incarceration (including parole and probation) has been served.

It’s estimated that 350,000 Virginians have been convicted of felonies, including non-violent offenses. Virginia is one of only four states that require ex-felons to file a petition to restore their voting rights. The new law only applies to non-violent felony convictions. All others must still use the petition process.

In all but two states (Maine and Vermont), those convicted of crimes lose their right to vote for at least some period of time. Twelve states permanently disenfranchise ex-offenders due to long waiting periods and extensive petitioning processes, requiring action by the governor or the legislature to restore voting rights.

Meaning many never get to vote again.

Historically, proponents of felony disenfranchisement believe people convicted of felonies have broken their contract with society and, therefore, should not be allowed to have the same level of access that law abiding citizens do. In our society of zero tolerance and justice at any cost, many states have enacted laws that have made it next to impossible for anyone convicted of a crime to vote, sometimes even if the convictions were for misdemeanors.

Yet we have a justice system that claims to allow people to do penance for their crimes. If they have done their time, should they continue to be punished?

A 2011 study by the Florida parole commission determined that in the two years where they had automatic restoration of voting rights (2009-2011), ex-offenders who had their civil rights restored had a recidivism rate  – meaning they returned to prison or were otherwise supervised by the department of corrections – of only 11 percent. This was much lower to than the average of 33 percent for the remaining ex-offender population.

The report stated that allowing ex-offenders to regain their civil rights and vote made it easier to reintegrate into the community and were less likely to reoffend. They worked harder to become contributing members of society.

So why would states not want to restore their voting rights?

More than 5 million people have been disenfranchised due to convictions. That is almost 3 percent of the voting age population. A little over 7 percent of African-Americans cannot vote due to felon disenfranchisement.

Those are numbers that can change elections.

It should be noted that Florida’s governor Rick Scott rescinded the automatic restoration of voting rights in 2011. It’s estimated that 23% of the black population in Florida is disenfranchised due to felony convictions.

It’s still unclear how smooth the path to restoring the civil rights of the ex-offenders will be, due to logistics. Nevertheless, restoring voting rights for ex-offenders was a key initiative for Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has a little less than a year left in his last term and this is a considered a bright spot in an otherwise controversial term .

Of course, with their rights restored, the path to voting is not without obstacles. They still have to comply with Virginia’s voter suppression bill that was signed into law by Gov. McDonnell in March of this year, requiring an ID in order to vote — even if you’re not a convicted felon.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith4 years ago

It comes down to why are they in jail? Most of the reasons listed seem to be poor reasons to ban someone. Especially if it's something like a stuiped prank gone bad, or just someone being vengful, or unfairly charged.

Overall, if they'd paid their dues, then they should have all their rights back. Otherwise, they're treated like a 2nd class citizen, who has no reason not to break the law again.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

I don't agree with this law. Maybe after a period of time with no new charges it would be ok, but not right away.

Lori Clayton
Lori Ann Clayton4 years ago

Yes, I think they should be allowed to vote.

Cyan Dickirs
Cyan Dickirs4 years ago

Depends on the crime. But some states incarcerate for life for the 3rd felony conviction, even if one conviction with 3 separate charges or for non violent crimes well in the past. Lots of problems. Besides which, in many states, people incarcerated do vote absentee ballot or someone votes for them. There is no current rule in any state that your registration is pulled or invalidated because you are incarcerated or convicted and on probation (no time served) I know many people who registered after serving 2-3 yrs and voted even on a federal beef. Most career criminals don't vote anyway.

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago

After fulfilling their prison obligation and are out in society their rights should be restored. Until then no.

Ori M.
oriana M4 years ago

I never knew that criminals in some states of America couldn't vote after serving their sentence. Very harsh. I think it's a good idea that serious and/or repeat offenders aren't given their voting rights back. A murderer takes away one person's life and their chance to vote, therefore why should the murderer still get his rights to vote and have a say in how more people's lives are affected. But for less serious defences, they should be given their rights back to vote. They are still part of the community and still have a chance to make a contribution.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N4 years ago


Nip slip ban sought by North Carolina lawmaker

A North Carolina lawmaker is at war with the nip slip. State Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican, introduced House Bill 34 to making it a Class H felony to expose "the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast." Topless men may still nip out freely, but were the bill to become law, female teat revealers could face up to six months in prison, according to the AP. The bill has an exception for breast-feeding, somewhat defeating its puritanical purpose, since one could presumably whip out a nipple anywhere, provided a baby was immediately installed upon it. [Source]

And, as long as Republicans are in power anywhere, the rates will increase for felons losing voting rights...

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N4 years ago

... The United States is the only democracy in the world that regularly bans large numbers of felons from voting after they have discharged their sentences. Many countries including Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Peru, Sweden, and Zimbabwe allow prisoners to vote (unless convicted of crimes against the electoral system).[14] Some countries, notably the U.K., disenfranchise people for only as long as they are in prison.

In Florida during the 2000 presidential election, some non-felons were banned due to record-keeping errors and not warned of their disqualification until the deadline for contesting it had passed. ...

The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world today. As of 2009, the incarceration rate was 743 per 100,000 of national population (0.743%).[2] In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000, Canada was 123rd in the world at 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000.[2] ...

(Canada's went up because Harper cheated his way in and we haven't been able to get him out yet.)

Nip slip ban sought by North Carolina lawmaker

A North Carolina lawmaker is at war with the nip slip. State Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican, introduced House Bill 34 to m