Those who exercise their right to vote have a say in deciding their community’s and the nation’s laws. While the right to vote is widely considered by many to be a fundamental human right, some American citizens choose not to vote. However, others are chomping at the bit for the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Under felony disenfranchisement laws, state governments are permitted to revoke the voting rights of people who have been convicted of a felony. The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice organization, estimates that over 6.1 million Americans cannot vote due to past felony convictions.
Under Arizona’s disenfranchisement laws, an estimated 221,000 people with felony convictions are barred from voting in Arizona. Of that number, only 20% of the disfranchised are in prison, and about 53% of that population have fully completed their sentences.
In Arizona, a felony conviction suspends a citizen’s right to vote until civil rights have been restored. So, what does this mean for you?
If you have only one felony conviction, the law is simple. However, the law is more complicate for those with multiple convictions.
Automatic Restoration. If you have been convicted of one felony offense, regardless of its classification, the process is relatively easy. The state will automatically restore your right to vote as soon as the court-imposed sentence is complete. This includes serving the entire prison sentence, including probation, parole and payment of any fines or restitution. Once this is complete, you are eligible to submit a voter registration form.
Judicial Restoration. If you have multiple felony convictions and served time in state prison, you are required to wait two years from the date of your absolute discharge for your rights to be restored. You must petition the court that sentenced you for restoration of your civil rights, including the right to vote. When you do, you will be required to submit your Certificate of Absolute Discharge to the court.
Those who are serving a lifetime probation for some offenses will never complete their sentences and therefore have a lifetime ban on voting.
If you have a felony conviction in Arizona, it does not mean that you must give up your constitutional right to vote. When you exercise your right to vote, you have the power to help make a difference in shaping your community.