No matter which way you lean politically, participating in democracy and seeing it in action by voting is one of the most precious rights an American citizen has, but what if that citizen is a convicted felon?
As of August 2020, no state has a total ban on voting by former felons. However, several states can make restoring one’s voting rights difficult by imposing fees (*cough* *cough* poll tax *cough*), requiring felons to write letters to their representatives to request their voting rights to be restored (*cough* *cough* conflict of interest *cough*), or depending on the crime committed, voting rights may never be restored. Luckily for Michiganders, our state restores a felon’s voting rights after the completion of their carceral sentence.
If you are currently out on probation or parole or are awaiting trial, you are also able to vote without any restrictions. However, individuals who are in prison or jail serving time for a felony or misdemeanor cannot vote. If you’re in jail awaiting trial for allegations you’re presumed innocent of, voting is allowed. But you have to trust that the deputies are going to get you your ballot and then get it out on time. Not a great prospect.
Although your voting rights are restored upon release, to vote, you must re-register if you were registered before your sentence. There are several ways to register to vote in Michigan, with the easiest being through the state’s online registration portal.
What if you served time in another state and you’re now a Michigan resident? Michigan voting rules apply, not the laws from the state in which you served time. Example: You’re convicted of a felony in Kentucky (Kentucky is a state in which people may permanently lose their right to vote depending on the type of crime committed). Several years after your release, you move to Michigan. Because you are a Michigan resident, you will be able to exercise your right to vote.
As an advocate in Lansing, it’s frustrating to know that many individuals who have done time have no idea that they can exercise their freedom, simply because nobody tells them, or they believe rumors that they can’t vote. We’ve had clients who felt disempowered to vote because of their prior felony conviction even when they weren’t actually disenfranchised. We’re here to tell you that you can vote and are free to participate in elections without restriction upon release.
If you have any questions about civil liberties or have experienced injustice, give us a call at (517) 940-8004.