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Do felons lose the right to vote in Pennsylvania?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2017 | criminal law | 0 comments

As you face felony charges, you’re wondering how it’s going to impact your civil rights. Even after you get out, you know that life may change forever.

You’ve heard all about other rights that you could lose. For instance, you know you may not be able to buy firearms or run for public office. However, you didn’t own any firearms before the allegations and you never wanted to be a politician, so you’re not too worried.

What you’re really concerned about is your right to vote. You’ve read a little bit about disenfranchisement and you take your voting rights very seriously. Are you going to lose them even when you get out? If convicted, have you already voted in your last election?

What is disenfranchisement?

One key thing to know about disenfranchisement is that it’s different in every state. For instance, rights are never lost in Maine and Vermont. In states like Alabama and Florida, you could lose voting rights and then the court or the governor can restore them. In places like Colorado and New York, you get your voting rights back after you complete your sentence. This doesn’t necessarily mean when you’re released; if you’re still on probation, for instance, you have to complete that before you can vote.

So, how does Pennsylvania stack up? It has some of the most favorable voting laws for felons. As soon as you get released from prison, you are automatically given your voting rights back. You don’t have to apply to the court, talk to the governor, or wait any extra time. Anyone who is not actively in prison can vote.

You do lose the right to vote as long as you are behind bars, however. If you’re given a 10-years sentence, that’s a decade of missing elections and other voting opportunities. Your sentence does impact your political abilities. You just don’t have to worry about any long-term ramifications in this regard.

This doesn’t mean that getting back in the election booth is always easy. You still have to register to vote again, and experts warn that this can grow complicated and confusing. They also note that government agencies don’t always have the greatest level of communication between them, which can delay the process or make it harder than it should be.

Restoring hope

However, one of the biggest issues authorities see is when those who have gotten convicted wrongfully assume they can never vote again. Now that you know that is not the case, you can move forward with this complex process to get your rights back.

When facing charges and considering all of your legal options, it’s important to think about the big picture. Remember that there may be ramifications and changes to your life beyond the charges and the sentence itself. Always be sure you know your rights and where you stand.