Can Felons Vote in Ohio?

Felons in the Buckeye State can get their voting rights back. Here's how to exercise your right to vote.

A felony conviction does not take away your voting rights forever. In Ohio, any eligible voter can vote before they get convicted of a crime and after completion of their sentence.

Disenfranchisement is taking away someone's right to vote. Felon disenfranchisement is common in the United States. The issue of felon voting rights is a major one in America today. Although the Constitution guarantees voting rights in general, each state determines its own election laws.

In most states, felons cannot vote while incarcerated. Some states, such as Vermont, never remove a felon's rights. A few, like Arizona, may remove them permanently. Ohio, like most states, falls somewhere between. Ohio law lets former felons vote immediately upon release. There are no other eligibility requirements.

You can vote while:

  • Waiting for arraignment (when the judge reads the formal charges against you)
  • Waiting for your trial
  • Indicted for a felony but not convicted
  • Waiting to go to jail or prison
  • On parole or probation
  • Appealing felony charges or a felony conviction

You can also vote as soon as you get out of jail or prison. If you are in jail awaiting your trial, you can use an absentee ballot to vote.

Voting Rights Restoration

Convicted felons can vote in federal and local elections upon:

  • Release from their prison sentence
  • Removal from the felony conviction list

The Ohio Secretary of State's office manages this list. It will block your voter registration while your name remains on the list.

The restoration of voting rights happens as soon as your name is off this list. You do not need to complete any paperwork.

Register to Vote After Completion of Sentence

A felony sentence removes your right to vote from the day of conviction through release from prison. After release, you must re-register to vote. If you go to jail for a misdemeanor, you still have the right to vote from jail. You can still register to vote in a halfway house or on house arrest. If the terms of your release prevent you from in-person voting, you can use an absentee ballot or vote by mail.

If you've completed your sentence but don't have a permanent address, you may use your last permanent address. If you're in jail, you must use your previous residence. You will need an absentee ballot for that location.

If you don't have a current government-issued photo ID, the ACLU recommends using the last four digits of your Social Security number. Absentee and mail-in ballots must be postmarked and received by the Board of Elections in your county of residence the day before Election Day.

Problems at the Voting Booth

If someone at the polling place will not let you vote, and you have completed your felony sentence, you may have rights under voter fraud laws.

You can sign an affidavit saying you do not have an ID or a permanent address, and your vote will still count. Do not let election officials say you cannot vote because of a felony record (unless it has not cleared from the list yet).

Defending Your Right to Vote in Ohio

If an election official or polling place doesn't let you vote because of your felony record, you have rights. Contact a civil rights attorney to discuss the voting situation.

If your felony conviction has not cleared from the Ohio list, you may need to talk to a criminal defense attorney about clearing your record.

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