Can Felons Vote in Texas?

If you're a U.S. citizen residing in Texas and 18 years or older, you will be eligible to vote – except if you've 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.

Voting rights are the hallmark of a democratic society. Letting convicted felons vote has become a contentious part of American legislation in recent years. Individual states decide their voting laws. Although the Constitution guarantees the right to vote, states may restrict voter registration based on their own rules.

Under Texas law, you may not register to vote if you're serving a prison sentence for a felony, or on probation or parole, and have not fully discharged your sentence.

You can register and vote if:

  • You're in jail for a misdemeanor
  • You're on pretrial detention for a misdemeanor or felony
  • You're on deferred adjudication or diversion
  • You're under indictment
  • Your case is on appeal, and there is no final conviction

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 felony conviction data to the Secretary of State. That agency 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 enabling citizens to participate in the nation's political system. It is important for people with a felony conviction to know and understand how they can restore their voting rights.

Unlike some states where certain felons lose their rights to vote permanently, Texas grants eligibility to vote once felons complete their sentence. Texas automatically restores your right to vote once you satisfy one of the requirements under section 4 of Texas' election code. You must register again to vote and prove you have complied with your sentencing requirements.

What Does 'Fully Discharged' Mean?

To "fully discharge" your sentence, you must have completed all terms of probation and parole, including any fines, fees, and restitution. Once you complete all terms, the state restores your voting rights without further need for action. You may need to re-register if your address has changed.

States Determine Felon Voting Rights

In a landmark decision in Richardson v. Ramirez (1974), the Supreme Court held that it doesn't violate the Fourteenth Amendment to keep felons from voting—even if they have served their sentences.

No federal laws are in place to determine citizens' ability to vote. Until Congress passes a standard bill regulating federal elections, states decide voting rights. This includes felony disenfranchisement in both state and federal elections.

Felon Voter Eligibility in States

State laws differ on felon voting rights. Vermont, Maine, and Washington, D.C., are the only states where felons never lose their voting rights, even in prison. Some states, like Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, permanently bar some individuals from voting even after completing their sentences.

Some states have waiting periods to restore voting rights. In 21 states, felons have their voting rights restored immediately after their release. In 16 states, felons must wait a period of time after release, usually after probation or parole, before they can vote. An increasing number of states have added voter fraud to this list.

For detailed information on how states restore the rights of felons, please refer to the summary compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Talk to a Civil Rights Attorney About Your Voting Rights

A criminal record doesn't automatically bar you from having a voice in the country's political system. If you think there has been a violation of your voting rights, or you need help regaining your right to vote, consult a Texas civil rights attorney.

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