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Criminal Convictions and Voting Rights in Ohio


Criminal convictions can result in far-reaching consequences that extend beyond fines and terms of imprisonment. For some individuals, convictions also impose restrictions on certain civil rights and privileges, such as the right to own a firearm, the ability to serve on a jury, or the right to vote.

As the recent mid-term elections have come and gone, they have left a greater focus on what it means to vote. Over the past several months, Americans from all walks of life have reinvested themselves in the ideal that voting is a cornerstone of American democracy, and have worked together to rally awareness and support not only for specific laws or certain candidates, but also the act of voting itself. For upwards of 6 million Americans, however, criminal convictions can bar them from participating in our democratic process.

Voting Right Laws for Ex-Offenders Vary by State

Voting right restrictions stem from a confusing and often criticized patchwork of disenfranchisement policies. Because these laws vary by state, the confusion they create often causes many Americans who are in fact eligible to vote to avoid the ballot box, believing a past criminal record makes them ineligible. Here are a few important points about laws on criminal convictions and voting rights.

  • In all but two states (Vermont and Maine), citizens convicted of felony crimes are barred from voting for a least some period of time.
  • In most states, voting rights are restored automatically following either (1) a release from prison and parole, with probationers still being allowed to vote, or (2) completion of entire sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.
  • In at least 6 states, restoration of voting rights depend on the underlying conviction and / or the outcome of any petition filed by an individual. For example, some states may allow individual convicted of felonies to vote immediately after their release from prison, while others convicted of certain crimes, such as violent crimes, are not eligible for re-enfranchisement.
  • In two states (Iowa and Kentucky) a convicted felon's voting rights may only be restored by applying for a pardon from the state governor (Kentucky) or the governor or the U.S. president (Iowa).

Can Criminals Vote? Here's What Ohio Law Says About Voting Rights

Ohio’s felony voting laws align with those of most other states. For example:

  • Individuals convicted of a felony crime are ineligible to vote while in prison.
  • Voting rights are automatically restored following release from prison.
  • People convicted of felonies on either probation or parole are eligible to vote.

Voting Right Restoration Reform

With more attention being given to voting, organizations and non-profits dedicated to civil rights and criminal justice issues have gained extensive support for needed reform of voter disenfranchisement and restoration laws. According to The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-profit law and policy institute, over 6 million Americans of voting age are prohibited from voting due to past criminal convictions. Although nearly 5 million of those citizens live and work in the community, laws restricting their rights, as well as confusion about those varying laws, prevents them from enjoying their fundamental democratic right.

Advocates behind voting right restoration reform are leveraging renewed interest in voting to increase awareness about felony disenfranchisement in the U.S., which disproportionately affect minorities and low-income citizens, and which now prevent a record portion of Americans from having a voice about local, state, and federal laws and representatives. Along with other aspects of criminal justice reform, voting right restoration has continued to gain support over the years, and more policy changes are expected to come.

Charged with a Crime in Ohio? Call Friedman Nemecek Long & Grant, L.L.C., L.L.C. Attorneys at Law.

Although Ohio has a more reasonable approach to voting restriction than other states, and while many may not consider voting ineligibility as a significant penalty, the decades-long debate over felony disenfranchisement shows just how far-reaching an impact criminal convictions can have on one’s life. Aside from voting restriction, that impact can include anything from potentially hefty fines and long terms of imprisonment to loss of gun rights, difficulties finding employment or retaining a professional license, and a record that can very well follow you indefinitely.

Attorney Ian N. Friedman and our legal team at Friedman Nemecek Long & Grant, L.L.C., L.L.C. Attorneys at Law are known for boldly and aggressively defending the rights, freedoms, and futures of clients charged with all types of crimes throughout Ohio, including serious and high stakes state and federal crimes. If you wish to discuss a potential case during a free and confidential case consultation, call (216) 928-7700 or contact us online today.