Felony Disenfranchisement

Why be concerned about felony disenfranchisement?

Because it helped Donald Trump become president in 2016.

This is from the 2016 Election Postmortem by Ed Sawicki:

The chickens came home to roost in 2016. After decades of doing nothing about felony disenfranchisement, the 2016 election had about six million fewer voters—most would have favored Democrats. But Democrats did little to fix this problem over the years, and Republicans didn't want it fixed.

Ironically, during the 2016 campaign season, many liberals on social media agreed with Republicans that felons shouldn't be allowed to vote. Yet they couldn't explain why they felt this way other than felons broke the law so there should be a penalty, apparently feeling that prison was not penalty enough.

These six million felons are not evenly distributed across our 435 congressional districts, but if they were, that’s more than 13,793 people per voting district who are prohibited from voting. This is another self-inflicted wound for the Democrats.

State Democrats should have done more before the 2016 election for prison reform generally and ensuring that felons had the right to vote specifically. One problem is that hundreds of Democratic seats in state legislatures were lost during the Bush and Obama years. More self-inflicted wounds.

There are twenty-four places in the world where felons face no voting restrictions:

  1. Austria
  2. Canada
  3. Croatia
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Denmark
  6. Finland
  7. Germany
  8. Iceland
  9. Ireland
  10. Israel
  11. Latvia
  12. Lithuania
  13. Macedonia
  14. Maine,U.S.
  15. Norway
  16. Serbia
  17. Slovenia
  18. Spain
  19. South Africa
  20. Sweden
  21. Switzerland
  22. Ukraine
  23. Vermont,U.S.
  24. Washington DC

In all other places, voting is restricted for felons. Voting in the United States is controlled by the states and most states deny felons their right to vote. Felons lose their right to vote for the remainder of their lives in Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia. The same is true of Armenia, Belgium, and Chile.

In most other states and countries, felons regain their right to vote sometime after they're released from prison or probation. This maps gives you an overview:


Everyone has the right to vote. Right restored after release from prison Right restored after release from prison and probation Depends on the crime All felons are permanently disenfranchised. Alaska AK Alabama AL Arkansas AR Arizona AZ California CA Colorado CO Connecticut CT Delaware DE Florida FL Georgia GA Hawaii HI Iowa IA Idaho ID Illinois IL Indiana IN Kansas KS Kentucky KY Louisiana LA Massassachusetts MA Maryland MD Maine ME Michigan MI Minnesota MN Missouri MO Mississippi MS Montana MT North Carolina NC North Dakota ND Nebraska NE New Hampshire NH New Jersey NJ New Mexico NM Nevada NV New York NY Ohio OH Oklahoma OK Oregon. OR Pennsylvania PA Rhode Island RI South Carolina SC South Dakota SD Tennessee TN Texas TX Utah UT Virginia VA Vermont VT Washington WA Wisconsin WI West Virginia WV Wyoming WY District of Columbia


Daryl Atkinson
The number of felons who can't vote often exceeds the margins for winning elections
Woman convicted of voter fraud
Woman gets 5 years for voting while on probation
John Oliver
John Oliver on felony disenfranchisement

For more information

The Sentencing Project ACLU logo

Additional reading

CBS News: North Carolina court ruling restores voting rights for former felons

ProPublica: A Government Official Helped Them Register. Now They’ve Been Charged With Voter Fraud.

ProPublica: In Florida, the Gutting of a Landmark Law Leaves Few Felons Likely to Vote

Propublica: Celebrities Spent Millions So Florida Felons Could Vote. Will It Make a Difference?

Propublica: Florida acts to remove felons from voter rolls as election looms

New America: The Undemocratic American State?

Freedom House: Reversing the Decline of Democracy in the United States