Can Felons Vote in Pennsylvania?
Yes, felons can vote in Pennsylvania, but only once they have finished their sentences.
People serving jail time or in prison for a felony conviction can't vote in Pennsylvania elections. Pennsylvania restores voting rights once the prison sentence is complete.
If you have a felony conviction, you may wonder if it affects your voting rights. Each state has unique laws about voting rights for convicted felons. Recently, states have begun reversing the disenfranchisement of ex-felons. Even jailed felons may vote in a few states, like Maine and Vermont. In others, such as Colorado, felons must complete their prison sentences, but all other felons may vote.
It's important to review your state's policies. This article discusses felon voting rights in Pennsylvania and some practicalities of casting your ballot after restoring your voting rights. The voter information page at the Pennsylvania Department of State website contains all the information necessary to register and vote in general and local elections.
You Can't Register and Vote If:
- You are serving time in jail or prison for conviction of a felony and will not get released in time for the election
- A court has convicted you of violating any part of the Pennsylvania Election Code within the past four years
You Can Register and Vote If:
- You are 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 completed your sentence by Election Day, and you're out of jail
- You are on probation or parole (this includes if you are on parole living in a halfway house)
- You are under house arrest
If you can't go to a polling place because you are in a penal institution, a halfway house, or 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 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 date of the next 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, you must register to vote or update your personal information. Your registration must arrive by the deadline shown on the voter information website.
Pennsylvania allows you to register to vote and update your personal information online.
Determining Your Place of Residency (Address for Voting)
You can't use a penal institution, including a halfway house, as your address for voter registration. You must use your previous address (or a new address) when you register to vote.
When determining residency for voting purposes, an inmate in a correctional facility resides where the person was last registered to vote. If the person was not registered to vote before incarceration, their last known address is their place of residency. They can also use a future address, such as a spouse's new address.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections offers more information on this topic.
Getting an Absentee Ballot in Pennsylvania
To apply for an absentee ballot, complete this form and send it to your county board of elections. If you plan to vote using an absentee or mail-in ballot in a general election, it must arrive in the election office by the deadline shown on the voter information website. The postmark is not enough. Allow enough time for the application and ballot to arrive at the county office.
Denied the Right to Vote?
If you are a pretrial detainee or convicted of a misdemeanor and want to vote, you must tell the facility before the election. If you are no longer in jail, unsure about your rights, or wish to vote in person and need information, speak with a Pennsylvania civil rights lawyer.
Protect Your Voting Rights
Contact a qualified attorney if you suspect your rights have been violated.