September 21, 2018

Update: Current and future voting rights for people with criminal convictions

Prior to the passage of Act 636 in June, many people in Louisiana (and beyond) were confused about the voting rights laws for people convicted of crimes, whether for misdemeanors or after spending decades in Angola Penitentiary. The new law goes into effect on March 1st, 2019. Here is what you need to know to understand voting rights for the Nov. 6th election, and also to understand who will be able to register and vote in the months to come.

“In all my years on the bench, I never sentenced anyone to lose their voting rights.” – Judge Miriam Weltzer (Retired), New Orleans

CURRENT LAW (throughout 2018):

  • Anyone not on probation or parole can vote. No matter what the prior conviction history, anyone not under supervision can vote. Anyone in prison, on parole, or with a suspended sentence on probation for a felony cannot vote.
  • Anyone on in jail or on probation for a misdemeanor can vote.
  • Anyone on probation, without a suspended sentence, can vote.
  • Anyone awaiting trial, with no conviction, can vote through an absentee ballot.

REGISTRATION

  • Anyone getting off supervision should bring their discharge papers to the registrar’s office. Although the DOC is supposed to communicate with the Secretary of State to un-suspend their voting rights, government bureaucracy is still calling on people to bring paperwork from one state agency to another state agency.
  • If someone gets off supervision on, or before, Nov. 6th, they should be able to register and vote under the ‘same day’ rules of people who move into the state just before an election; and/or they should be able to register prior to getting off supervision so they can exercise their voting rights on the day they are un-suspended.
  • Anyone turned away by the registrar, who believes they have the right to vote, should contact VOTE at 504-571-9599.
  • Anyone who has not voted in the past 3 elections (due to incarceration or inactivity) has likely been moved to the “Inactive” list. They will need to update their registration in order to have their voting power restored.
  • People can verify their new address and update their registration by clicking this link here.

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FUTURE LAW (After March 1st, 2019)

  • Anyone not on probation or parole can vote. No matter what the prior conviction history, anyone not under supervision can vote.
  • Anyone on probation, who has not been incarcerated for a probation violation (and then released) under the current sentence, can vote. Everyone on probation starts out with voting rights, regardless of their past convictions, and may only have then suspended if they are incarcerated due to a violation or new charge.
  • Anyone on parole, who has been out of prison for 5 years, can vote.

REGISTRATION (After December, 2018)

  • To have voting rights on March 1st, people will need a system in place similar to 17-year-olds who can “pre-register”; or people who move from out of state to Louisiana.
  • The Secretary of State must create a method that allows and encourages people to exercise their right to vote.
  • Act 636 legislators and VOTE are seeking a smooth resolution to the registration process, and the Dept. of Corrections has been willing to assist.
  • The next election is in March, 2019.

Anyone wishing to join in a massive registration effort should contact VOTE at 504-571-9599. Or email Robert Goodman, Robert@vote-nola.org

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