The right to vote is an important part of being an American citizen. Is it possible for a convicted felon to regain their voting rights in the state of Texas?
As citizens of the United States, we have individual rights that we often take for granted – until they are taken away or jeopardized in some way. Adult American citizens have the right to vote and take part in the nation’s political system, but certain situations can put a person’s voting rights at risk.
When someone is convicted of a felony crime, his or her voting rights are suspended, with the chance of earning them back being left in the hands of individual state governments. Considering the next major government election a mere two years away, many people who have prior felony convictions are now inquiring if their right to vote still stands in the state of Texas. To better understand if your right to vote still stands after a felony conviction, it’s best to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Texas.
Voting Rights After a Felony Conviction
Contrary to common belief, the United States Constitution does not provide explicit voter protections for every citizen. There are Constitutional amendments that protect citizens from being denied the right to vote based on race, ethnicity or gender; however, this is the extent of what’s covered. Unfortunately, the United States Constitution does not provide clear guidance on voting rights after a felony conviction. (1)
According to the ACLU, there are approximately 47 million Americans with criminal records. As someone with a criminal record works to integrate themselves back into being a productive member of society, they may wish to express themselves and shape the future of their communities and the nation through voting in elections. The problem is that many former felons have a difficult time finding clear answers on if and when their voting rights can be restored. To make matters worse, the majority of states use a voter registration form that makes it unclear if someone with a criminal record is eligible to register. (2)
Currently, a person loses his or her right to vote when convicted of a felony in 48 states, plus the District of Columbia. However, each of these states also outlines a process for those who have previously been convicted of a crime to regain their voting rights. Having this process is a good thing, except that each state is allowed to set their own guidelines for the process, which makes it even more confusing for someone trying to regain their life and a new sense of normal after a conviction.
Conviction and Voter Registration in Texas
The laws that cover conviction and voter registration in Texas states that a person who has been convicted of a felony is prohibited from registering to vote until he or she has successfully completed all the terms of their sentence. This includes parole, probation, supervision and confinement. Upon completion of such terms, any person with a prior conviction in Texas is immediately eligible to vote. (3)
It’s important to note that these Texas voting laws apply to actual convictions. If a person is facing prosecution, indictment or taking part in other procedures that occur before a conviction is finalized, their criminal status has not yet been determined, and therefore they maintain the right to vote until they receive an actual criminal conviction.
For example, someone facing criminal indictment on any number of charges would still be eligible to vote in public elections in the state of Texas, while someone who has been released from incarceration but still serving out the terms of their parole, would be instructed that they are not yet eligible until all qualifications have been met.
Regaining the Right to Vote in Texas
Fortunately, the process for regaining the right to vote in Texas is relatively straightforward. Voter registration is granted to all residents who are at least 18 years of age by the date of the election. If a person has been convicted of a felony in the past, they must be able and prepared to supply proof that they have either fulfilled their sentencing requirements or been pardoned and have been released from any voting right restrictions. In some cases, a person might also need to demonstrate that they are mentally competent.
Any person with a previous conviction that has served the terms of their sentence should obtain a voter registration form from any number of public venues, including the County Voter’s Registrar’s Office, Secretary of State or the Public Library.
Contact a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney
Gaining your life back after a criminal conviction can be a lengthy process. If you have questions or want to discuss your rights, contact a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney for a consultation. An experienced defense attorney can help you understand the legalities of regaining your voters’ rights and other aspects of integrating back into society.
Don’t think that just because you have a record or felony conviction that your voice doesn’t matter. Each citizen that’s eligible to vote has the responsibility to let their voice be heard. Contact a skilled legal team that can help you restore your rights as an American citizen today. If you or a loved one have been wrongly convicted of voter registration fraud in Texas, speak to Dallas criminal appeals lawyers Broden & Mickelsen today.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.