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Can Felons Vote in Pennsylvania?

Individuals currently serving jail time or prison for a felony conviction cannot vote in Pennsylvania elections. Pennsylvania restores voting rights once the prison sentence is complete.

If you have been convicted of a crime such as a felony, you may be wondering if your voting rights have been impacted. Each state has unique laws regarding voting rights for convicted felons, so it's important to review the policy of your state. This article discusses felon voting rights in Pennsylvania, as well as some of the practicalities of casting your ballot after your voting rights have been restored.

You Cannot Register and Vote If:

  • You are serving time in a jail or prison for a felony conviction and will not be released in time for the election
  • You have been convicted of violating any part of the Pennsylvania Election Code within the past four years

You CAN Register and Vote If:

  • You are being held in a jail or prison awaiting trial on felony or misdemeanor charges
  • You are serving time in jail or prison on a misdemeanor-only criminal conviction
  • You have been released from jail, prison, or a halfway house by Election Day after completing your incarceration for a misdemeanor or a felony conviction
  • You are on probation or released parole (this includes if you are on parole living in a halfway house)
  • You are under house arrest

If you are not able to go to the polls because you are in a penal institution, you are living in a halfway house, or you are under house arrest, you must vote by mail-in or absentee ballot. See the section below on how to apply for an absentee ballot in Pennsylvania.

Note: You must also meet the following general voting eligibility requirements:

  • You are a U.S. citizen
  • You will be at least 18 years old at the time of the election
  • You have been a Pennsylvania resident and a resident of your election district for at least 30 days before the election

How to Register to Vote or Update Your Address

If you are already registered to vote, there is nothing you need to do to regain your voting rights after serving time.

If this is your first time voting, you have not voted in the past four years, or you need to update your name or address, your must register to vote or update your personal information by Monday, October 19, 2020, in order to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election on Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania allows you to register to vote and update your personal information online.

Determining Your Place of Residency (Address for Voting)

A penal institution, including a halfway house, cannot be used as your address for voter registration. That means you will have to use your previous address (or a new address) when you register to vote.

When determining residency for voting purposes, an inmate in jail or prison is considered to reside where the person was last registered to vote before being incarcerated. If the person was not registered to vote before being incarcerated, then the person's last known address before confinement is considered their place of residency. A future address (such as if a spouse has moved to a new home) can also be used.

More information on this topic is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Getting an Absentee Ballot in Pennsylvania

To apply for an absentee ballot, you will need to complete this form and send it to your county board of elections. Your application must be received by your county board of elections by 5 p.m. on October 27, 2020 in order to get a absentee ballot in time for the Nov. 3 election. However, it is a good idea to allow for even more time, if possible.

After you have received and completed your absentee ballot, the voted ballot must be received by your county election office (not merely postmarked) by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 in order to be counted.

Denied the Right to Vote?

If you are no longer in prison or are awaiting trial, and you have been turned away at the polls or otherwise denied the right to vote, contact a civil rights lawyer.

Protect Your Voting Rights

Contact a qualified attorney if you suspect your rights have been violated.

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