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Barred for Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States

February 01, 2005
Marc Mauer and Tushar Kansal
In 14 states, some or all persons convicted of a felony can be considered to be permanently disenfranchised. This report represents the first national survey of the restoration process in each of the 14 states.

An estimated 4.7 million Americans are not eligible to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement laws that apply in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Election laws are determined by each state, and so disenfranchisement laws vary significantly across the country. Persons who are excluded from voting include people currently serving a felony sentence in prison or on probation or parole, as well as persons in 14 states which disenfranchise convicted persons even after completion of sentence.

Of the 14 states that disenfranchise persons after completion of sentence, 6 do so for all persons convicted of a felony and 8 others do so either for certain categories of offenses or for certain time periods. In all 14 states, some or all persons convicted of a felony can be considered to be permanently disenfranchised. In some states, for example, this can include an 18-year old convicted of a first-time non-violent offense and sentenced to probation.

The only means by which these persons can have their voting rights restored is through action by the state, variously by a pardon or restoration of rights from the governor or board or pardons, or by legislative action. In many of these 14 jurisdictions, restoration of rights is as a practical matter unattainable for most convicted persons.

This report represents the first national survey of the restoration process in each of the 14 states. We present data on the number of people seeking to have their rights restored in these states, along with estimates of the total number of disenfranchised persons who have completed a felony sentence.

To read the report, download the PDF below.

 
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