Can Felons Vote in Texas?
If you are a U.S citizen residing in Texas and you are 18 years or older, you will be eligible to vote. One exception to this rule is if you have been convicted of a felony crime. Section 11.002 of the Texas Election code bars felons from voting until they fully discharge their court-ordered sentence, parole, or probation.
I Am Appealing My Felony Conviction. Can I Still Vote?
Yes. Texas law does not consider a conviction that is on appeal to be a final conviction. Indictments and prosecutions are also not final convictions.
Who Oversees the Implementation of the Laws?
The Texas Secretary of State is the organization that determines voting eligibility rights in Texas.
Every week, the Texas Department of Safety sends data regarding felony convictions to the Secretary of State, which in turn matches the data with the listed files for registered voters. If it finds a match, it notifies the county.
How Can I Restore My Voting Rights?
The right to vote is a fundamental civil right that enables citizens to participate in the nation's political system. Therefore, it is very important for people with a felony conviction to know and understand how they can restore their voting rights.
Unlike some states where certain felons permanently lose their rights to vote, Texas grants eligibility to vote once felons complete their sentence, parole, or probation. Texas is one of the states that automatically restore your right to vote once you satisfy one of the requirements listed under section 4 of Texas' election code. However, you should note you must register again to vote and be prepared to show proof that you have complied with your sentencing requirements.
States Determine Felon Voting Rights
In a landmark decision in Richardson v. Ramirez, the Supreme Court held that it does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to keep felons from voting even if they have served their sentences.
Despite what most people think, there are no federal laws in place to determine citizens' ability to vote. Thus, until Congress passes a standard bill that regulates federal elections, states decide voting rights including felony disenfranchisement in both state and federal elections.
Felon Voter Eligibility in States
The rules on felon voting rights differ among states. Vermont and Maine, for instance, are the only states where felons never lose their voting rights even when they are in prison (that goes for Washington, D.C. as well). On the other hand, states like Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama permanently bar people from voting depending on how severe the offense is. These offenses include conviction of rape and murder.
Another difference between state laws depends on when the right to vote is restored. In 21 states, felons have their voting rights restored immediately after their release. In 16 states, however, felons have to wait sometime after release, usually after probation or parole, before they can vote.
For detailed information on how states restore rights of felons, please refer to the summary compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Talk to a Civil Rights Attorney If Your Voting Rights Are Violated
Having a criminal record doesn't automatically bar you from giving your voice in the political system of the country. If you feel your voting rights have been violated or want to understand the process of regaining your right to vote, consult a Texas civil rights attorney.