Laws barring ex-offenders from voting significantly disadvantage communities of color and have the potential to skew electoral outcomes. Due to felony disenfranchisement laws, roughly 4.4 million Americans are currently denied the ability to exercise their fundamental right to vote. This is not only a civil rights issue, it also is an issue of electoral integrity. With fully 1 out of 13 African Americans currently unable to vote, felony disenfranchisement has the potential to affect electoral results as voices from communities of color are disproportionately silenced. There has been some positive movement in the states: One notable example is in Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored the voting rights of 5,113 individuals—a record for a governor’s first year in office.

This report examines the categories of people whose voting rights can be restricted by states. Maine and Vermont, which have no voting restriction on current inmates, 13 additional states and the District of Columbia end restrictions on felons after their prison sentence ends. Four states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York—have restrictions while felons are in prison and on parole. Nineteen states extend those restrictions to ex-felons on probation. Finally, 12 states continue to disenfranchise some or all ex-felons after they have completed their full sentence, including parole and probation.

For a more detailed explanation of each factor, including citations, please download the full report.

Click to view scoring methodology
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State law has no restrictions on voting or restrictions in prison only
    0 points
  3. State law has restrictions on voting during parole, or parole and probation
    5 points
  4. State law has restrictions on voting during parole, parole and probation, or parole, probation, and post-sentence.
    10 points
Policy Recommendation for This Factor
Re-enfranchise ex-offenders after they have served their prison sentences

According to The Sentencing Project, “denying the right to vote of an entire class of citizens is deeply problematic to a democratic society and counterproductive to effective reentry.” States should provide either automatic restoration of voting rights or a transparent, affordable, well-publicized process to restore ex-offender voting rights after prison sentences have been served.

Click here to see a full list of policy recommendations to improve the health of state democracies based on the findings of this report.

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