Can Felons Vote in Ohio?
A felony conviction does not take away your voting rights forever. In Ohio, any eligible voter can vote before they are convicted of a crime and after the completion of their sentence.
Felons in prison cannot vote in Ohio. However, you can vote once you have completed your prison sentence.
You can also vote while:
- Waiting for arraignment (when the judge reads the formal charges against you)
- Waiting for your trial
- Waiting to see if you are convicted of a felony (you can still vote after being charged but before you are convicted)
- Waiting to go to jail or prison
- On parole or probation
- Appealing felony charges or a felony conviction
You can also vote immediately after 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 as soon as:
- They are released from their prison sentence
- Their name comes off the felony conviction list
This list is handled by the Ohio Secretary of State's office. 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
Felonies and misdemeanors will take away your right to vote from the time you are convicted until your sentence is served. You need to register if you are a first-time voter or re-register to vote if you have not voted in years.
You can register to vote even if you don't have:
- A permanent address
- A government-issued photo ID
You also have the right to vote with an absentee ballot or mail-in ballot.
Problems at the Voting Booth
If someone at the polling place will not let you vote, and your felony conviction has been cleared, 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).
Felon Voting Rights Disenfranchisement
Disenfranchisement is the taking away of someone's right to vote. Felon disenfranchisement is very common in the United States.
States are legally allowed to restrict the right to vote based on the commission of a crime. In most states, felons are unable to vote while in prison. While many states restore the right to vote at some point after a felon's release, some never do. In fact, if you move from Ohio to another state, you may lose the right to vote if the new state does not share similar laws.
There is a national movement to give ex-felons the right to vote in all states, and many people argue this should be determined at the federal level. Currently, nothing in the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote.
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.