Help Welcome Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Back to the Voting Booth
Many people with felony convictions assume they cannot vote. But that’s not true! Up to 17 million Americans with past convictions can vote RIGHT NOW – they just don’t know it. Although many states have some restriction on the right to vote for people with convictions, most states restore the right to vote to people after they complete their sentences. However, many people never try to check their eligibility because the process of understanding felony voting laws can be difficult and burdensome. More recently, determining voter eligibility has gotten a lot easier.
Common Cause is partnering with the Campaign Legal Center to help ensure that 25k formerly incarcerated individuals register to vote before the midterms!
Here are five steps formerly incarcerated people can take to get involved in the upcoming elections:
1 Find out if you are eligible to vote
The Campaign Legal Center has released a first-of-its-kind online tool to help citizens with past felony convictions understand their voting rights in all 50 states. The tool can be found at RestoreYourVote.org. With the tool, it can take less than 10 minutes to figure out whether an individual is eligible to vote in their state. The website is completely anonymous and it does not retain any information.
2 Double check your eligibility
If circumstances are complex or you want to feel assured about eligibility, felony voting law experts at the Campaign Legal Center are just a call or email away at (202) 857-0314 and RestoreYourVote@campaignlegalcenter.org.
3 Eligible? Register to vote!
Once you have determined your eligibility, go to commoncause.org/vote to register! For each state, Rock The Vote contains resources on voter registration, important dates and deadlines, ways to prepare for election day, and the phone number for election officials.
4 Not Eligible? You can still participate!
Unfortunately, some states have extremely strict voting laws — in 2016, 6.1 million incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans were legally denied the right to vote. Folks that are not eligible should not attempt to vote. Each state has its own punishment that could include a few years in prison and/or a hefty fine. As an ineligible voter, you can still participate by signing up to be an election protection volunteer to help voters navigate the voting process and cast their votes without obstruction or confusion.
5 Promote the Election Protection Hotline
Lastly, eligible and ineligible voters can promote the Election Protection hotline, which is a national, nonpartisan resource used to assist voters on election day should they encounter any problems. This includes helping formerly incarcerated individuals determine their eligibility on election day. The hotlines Include:
866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) – English language hotline
888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) – Spanish language hotline
888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) – Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog
844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) – Arabic language hotline
The Election Protection Website contains many resources that can help citizens register to vote, check their registration status, fill out an absentee ballot, locate their polling place, etc.