Can You Vote If You're On Probation? It Depends On Where You Live & The Nature Of Your Conviction
After a long and increasingly strange election cycle that began 18 months ago, the end is finally in sight, and it's almost time to get out and rock the vote. The third and final debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was held on Oct. 19, and with less than three weeks until Election Day, it's clearer than ever just how much is at stake in this historic election. People are eager to cast their ballots, and high early voter turnout in states like Georgia indicates that we may see record turnout on Election Day. But some Americans may have concerns about their voting rights and registration. For example, can you vote if you're on probation?
The answer to this question varies depending on the state, but in general, the answer is yes. But let's start with the most complicated scenario: a person who has been incarcerated for a felony. Currently, incarcerated felons are only allowed to vote from their prison cells in two states (Maine and Vermont). But in the rest of the country, the restoration of voting rights varies depending on the state, and the laws are stricter in some states than others. Certain states automatically restore a person's voting rights upon their release from prison, while others can't vote until their probation period is completed, as explained and listed by Nonprofit VOTE.
In a select few states (Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia), voting rights can only be restored if a person submits an application or petition to the government, which can potentially be rejected. The ACLU is actively working to combat this issue, because the process is exercised in a manner which disproportionately affects minorities, and it can lead to ex-felons being disenfranchised for life.
However, if you're on probation due to a misdemeanor, the path to the voting booth is smooth, and your only potential headache on Election Day will be a long wait time. (But this is a good thing, because it means people are exercising their right to vote!) According to New-York-based Attorney Michael Kramer, who specializes in criminal defense, probationers who have been convicted of a misdemeanor never lose their right to vote. This is true in every state, and there's no red tape or paperwork to fill out before casting your vote.
If you're on probation for a misdemeanor or a felony and you have questions or concerns about Election Day, your best bet is to get in touch with your local or state election board — they'll be able to provide answers that are specific to your personal situation.