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Felons Voting Rights

The restriction of the rights of felons is not a new practice in the United States. The practice can be traced back to Europe and the “civil death” that was assigned to criminals. Under “civil death’ felons lost their right to vote, their property, their ability to enter into a contract, and their ability to appear in court. When colonists arrived in America, they brought with them the practice of “civil death.” Felons Voting RightsThroughout the years, most of the punishments that were doled out under the “civil death” ended, but in some states the restriction of voting rights for felons has remained.

In Maine and Vermont, prisoners and felons never lose their right to vote. In other states, the opposite is true. In Florida, Virginia, and Iowa felons never earn back the privilege to vote. In 38 states, including Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, just to name a few, incarcerated felons lose their ability to vote during incarceration, but they get their voting rights back after their release from prison. In these states, as soon as the felon exits the prison system they immediately have their voting rights reinstated.

In a few other states, felons have to wait a specified amount of time before their voting rights are restored. This includes the time they are on parole or probation. In Arizona after a felon’s first offenses time has been served, a felon gets their voting rights back. After a second offense they have a waiting period before they can vote again. In Nebraska, felons cannot vote during a 2-year period following incarceration. In Tennessee, the restoration of voting rights depends on the offense. Felons convicted of murder, rape, voter fraud, and treason permanently lose their right to vote. Finally there are currently nine states that require the court or Governor to restore a felon’s voting rights.

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