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Felon Disenfranchisement

Barring people from the polls because of criminal convictions

On this page, the Prison Policy Initiative has curated all of the research about felon disenfranchisement that we know of. You can also see more of our research on the collateral consequences of incarceration on our Collateral Consequences page. For research on other criminal justice topics, see our Research Library homepage.

  • Increasing Public Safety by Restoring Voting Rights Sentencing Project, April, 2023“Retaining one's voting rights regardless of involvement in the criminal legal system can be viewed as a public safety strategy.”
  • (New) Casting Out from the Inside: Abolishing Felony Disenfranchisement in New York Elizabeth Neuland, December, 2022“Felony disenfranchisement stands in stark opposition to rehabilitation because it alienates individuals from the very communities to which DOCCS is taking great measures to help them to return.”
  • Voting From Jail (Working Paper) Anna Harvey and Orion Taylor, October, 2022“Registered voters booked into county jails for the full duration of 2020 voting days were on average 46% less likely to vote in 2020, relative to registered voters booked into the same jails within 7-42 days after Election Day.”
  • Jail-based polling locations: A way to fight voter disenfranchisement Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2022“In the June 2022 primary, roughly 25% of people detained at the [Cook County, Ill.] jail cast their ballots. This location was so successful that people at the jail actually voted at a higher rate than registered voters in Chicago (20%).”
  • The Reintegration Agenda During Pandemic: Criminal Record Reforms in 2020 Collateral Consequences Resource Center, January, 2021“In 2020, 32 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government enacted 106 legislative bills, approved 5 ballot initiatives, and issued 4 executive orders to restore rights and opportunities to people with a criminal record.”
  • report thumbnail Eligible, but excluded: A guide to removing the barriers to jail voting Prison Policy Initiative & Rainbow PUSH Coalition, October, 2020“Most people in jail are legally eligible to vote, but they are prevented from doing so by numerous barriers.”
  • Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction Sentencing Project, October, 2020“As of 2020, an estimated 5.17 million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction.”
  • Voting in California Jails: A community toolkit ACLU of Northern California, August, 2020“There are roughly 82,000 people in California's jails and practically all of those individuals who are adult citizens have the right to vote.”
  • Who Must Pay to Regain the Vote? A 50-State Survey Collateral Consequences Resource Center, July, 2020“In most of the others (16 states), regaining the vote is tied to completion of supervision, which may give courts and supervision officials some discretion to delay reenfranchisement temporarily if LFOs have not been paid, but not to deny it permanently.”
  • Voting in Jails Sentencing Project, May, 2020“In local jails the vast majority of persons are eligible to vote because they are not currently serving a sentence for a felony conviction.”
  • Challenging Jail-Based Disenfranchisement: A Resource Guide for Advocates Campaign Legal Center, December, 2019“Jail-based disenfranchisement is not the result of one bad law; instead, it is caused by a complicated, convoluted net of practical barriers that deprive eligible, incarcerated voters of their constitutional right to vote.”
  • Overcoming Barriers that Prevent Eligible Incarcerated People from Voting in Massachusetts The Emancipation Initiative, October, 2019“There are up to 10,000 voters incarcerated in Massachusetts on any given day who retain the right to vote on paper.”
  • Can't Pay, Can't Vote: A National Survey on the Modern Poll Tax Campaign Legal Center and the Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown Law, July, 2019“But, the majority of states condition rights restoration, either explicitly or implicitly, on the payment of legal financial obligations.”
  • Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer Sentencing Project, June, 2019“Only two states, Maine and Vermont, do not restrict the voting rights of anyone with a felony conviction, including those in prison.”
  • Shifting Power: The Impact of Incarceration on Political Representation Brianna Remster and Rory Kramer, April, 2019“Drawing on data from the Census, Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, and Pennsylvania Redistricting Commission, we develop a counterfactual framework to examine whether removing and returning prisoners to their home districts affects equal representation.”
  • Expanding the Vote: Two Decades of Felony Disenfranchisement Reform Sentencing Project, October, 2018“More than 6 million citizens will be ineligible to vote in the midterm elections in November 2018 because of a felony conviction.”
  • Full Human Beings: An argument for incarcerated voter enfranchisement Peoples Policy Project, May, 2018(This report argues that all US states should allow incarcerated people to vote, something that only Maine and Vermont currently permit.)
  • 1844 No More New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, December, 2017“Rather than strengthen our democracy, New Jersey’s decision to deny the right to vote to people with criminal convictions deprives its most vulnerable communities of valuable voices needed to affect systemic change.”
  • Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History Brennan Center for Justice, May, 2017“One in every 13 voting-age African Americans cannot vote, a disenfranchisement rate more than four times greater than that of all other Americans.”
  • It's not just the franchise: Mass incarceration undermines political engagement Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2017“Contact with the criminal justice system impacts not only individual experiences of political participation, but also community-wide political engagement.”
  • The Voting Rights of Ex-Felons and Election Outcomes in the United States Tilman Klumpp, Hugo Mialon, Michael Williams, March, 2017“The changes in felony disenfranchisement laws examined are evidence of a growing consensus that lifelong voting bans are not only ethically problematic, but also stand in the way of efforts to reduce recidivism.”
  • Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of Kentucky League of Women Voters of Kentucky, February, 2017“[O]ne of every four African American adults in Kentucky cannot vote. This rate (26.2%) is more than triple the national African American disenfranchisement rate (7.44%).”
  • Florida: An Outlier in Denying Voting Rights Brennan Center for Justice, December, 2016“With roots tracing back to Reconstruction and the Jim Crow period, racial discrimination has stifled the right to vote in Florida for hundreds of years.”
  • 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016 The Sentencing Project, October, 2016“Approximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population – 1 of every 40 adults – is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.”
  • Voting Rights of Former Felons ACLU of Nebraska, June, 2016“Disturbingly, a decade after our ex-felon voting rights law was adopted, only half of all counties provided correct and accurate information.”
  • How Racial Attitudes and Ideology Affect Political Rights for Felons Du Bois Review, May, 2015“Consistent with much of the literature on attitudes toward ameliorative racial policies, higher levels of racial resentment strongly predict lower support for felons’ political rights among both conservatives and liberals.”
  • Value to the Soul: People with Criminal Convictions on the Power of the Vote New Jersey Institute for Social Change, 2015(In 2019, New Jersey denies the right to vote to 102,245 people. That is more people than reside in New Jersey's capital city of Trenton, and more people than live in Camden, Hoboken, and in hundreds of other municipalities in New Jersey.)
  • Voting Rights Barriers and Discrimination in 21st Century California 2000-2013 Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, March, 2014“Structural vote dilution and discrimination continue to plague California. These voting rights violations are just as real today as they were when the VRA was first enacted in 1965...”
  • Democracy Imprisoned A Review of the Prevalence and Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States The Sentencing Project et al., September, 2013“In three states, at least one out of every five African-American adults is disenfranchised: Florida (23%), Kentucky (22%), and Virginia (20%).”
  • Imprisonment and Disenfranchisement of Disconnected Low-Income Men Urban Institute, August, 2013“When broken out by race and ethnicity, striking differences appear: incarceration rates for African American men are over six times higher than rates for white men and nearly two and a half times higher than rates for Hispanic men...”
  • Restoration of Rights Project National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, October, 2012“54 jurisdictional profiles include provisions on loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms privileges, legal mechanisms for overcoming or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing.”
  • Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in The United States Sentencing Project, August, 2012“Overview of felony disenfranchisement policy and implications, includes state-by-state table illustrating the categories of persons disenfranchised due to a felony conviction.”
  • State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States 2010 Sentencing Project, July, 2012“Ex-felons in the eleven states that disenfranchise people after they have completed their sentences make up about 45 percent of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling over 2.6 million people.”
  • Voting Behind Bars An Argument for Voting by Prisoners Sentencing Project, July, 2011“Twenty-three states have enacted some type of reform to their felony disenfranchisement practices since 1997—a remarkable pace of activity in a relatively short time frame.”
  • Voting Behind Bars: An Argument for Voting by Prisoners Sentencing Project, June, 2011“The extreme nature of U.S. disenfranchisement policies can be seen in the fact that to the extent there is debate about this issue elsewhere, the only significant distinction is whether any restrictions at all should be placed on people [w/ convictions].”
  • Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997-2010 Sentencing Project, October, 2010“Since 1997, 23 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility.”
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents Prisoners and Political Clout in California Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2010“There are 12 California counties where a large percentage of their”
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents Incarcerated People and Political Clout in Maryland Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2010“In Somerset County, a large prison is 64% of the 1st Commission District, giving each resident in that district 2.7 times as much influence as residents in other districts.”
  • Importing Constituents Prisoners and Political Clout in Connecticut Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2010“In seven Connecticut's house districts more than 5% of the population is actually disenfranchised people who are legal residents of other parts of the state.”
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Illinois Prison Policy Initiative, February, 2010“Illinois' reliance on flawed Census data is responsible for a large shift in political clout from the Chicago area to downstate regions and a significant distortion of power within counties that contain prisons.”
  • Recommendations to the UN Forum on Minority Issues Human Rights Council Sentencing Project, November, 2009“The felony disenfranchisement laws, policies and practices of the United States deny the right to vote to a large segment of its minority population in a manner inconsistent with the general principles of international human rights law.”
  • Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Massachusetts Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2009“Five of Massachusetts' House districts meet federal minimal population requirements only because the state treats prisoners as residents of the district with the prison.”
  • Report Submitted to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Sentencing Project, September, 2009“In the United States, nearly two million African Americans – or 8.25 percent of the African American population – are disenfranchised, a rate three times the national average.”
  • Expanding the Vote State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997-2008 Sentencing Project, September, 2009“A reform movement across the United States over the past eleven years has resulted in more than 760,000 citizens having regained their right to vote.”
  • Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Oklahoma Prison Policy Initiative, September, 2009([B]y relying on Census Bureau counts of prison populations to pad out legislative districts with prisons, Oklahoma is inflating the votes of residents who live near prisons at the expense of every other resident in the state.)
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents Prisoners and Political Clout in Pennsylvania Prison Policy Initiative, June, 2009“The legislative commission that drew Pennsylvania's districts in 2001 met the federal standard of population equality, but only because prisoners were counted in the wrong place.”
  • Phantom Constituents in Maine's Regional School Unit 13: How the Census Bureau's outdated method of counting prisoners harms democracy Prison Policy Initiative, January, 2009“The designers of the school board's weighted voting system have given every group of 10 residents of Thomaston the same power over school district decisions as each group of 11 residents in the other towns.”
  • Voting with a Criminal Record How Registration Forms Frustrate Democracy ACLU, October, 2008“This analysis finds that 33 states plus the District of Columbia currently use registration forms that do not sufficiently convey information about the voter eligibility of the 47 million Americans with criminal records.”
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2008
  • The Campaign to Restore the Voting Rights of Persons Convicted of a Felony DemocracyWorks, January, 2008(Published in American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 51, No. 5. A previous version appeared in monograph form published by DemocracyWorks.)
  • report thumbnail Phantom constituents in the Empire State: How outdated Census Bureau methodology burdens New York counties Prison Policy Initiative, July, 2007
  • The Modern-Day Poll Tax How Economic Sanctions Block Access to the Polls Sentencing Project, May, 2007“Low-income individuals face felon voting bans when they are required to pay all the legal financial obligations associated with a conviction before regaining the right to vote, resulting in the de facto disenfranchisement of countless individuals.”
  • Challenges to Felony Disenfranchisement Laws Past, Present, and Future Alabama Law Review, May, 2007“[T]he best way to achieve the goal of abolition is to generate press and harness public outrage to bring about legislative change.”
  • Barriers to Democracy A Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a Thematic Hearing on Felony Disenfranchisement Practice Sentencing Project, May, 2007“The time is long overdue for the United States to follow the lead of its hemispheric neighbors and the broader international community, uphold treaties to which the United States is obligated, and take steps toward universal suffrage by reforming its crim”
  • Felon Disenfranchisement in Alaska and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Alaska Law Review, December, 2006“[A] case brought in Alaska [...] may well invalidate the state's practice of disenfranchising felons on the basis of its racially disproportionate impact.”
  • Felony Disenfranchisement in Connecticut Sentencing Project, October, 2006
  • Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of Kentucky League of Women Voters of Kentucky, October, 2006“Kentucky has the highest African American disenfranchisement rate in the country with nearly one of every 4 African Americans ineligible to vote. This rate is nearly triple the national African American disenfranchisement rate.”
  • A Decade of Reform: Felony Disenfranchisement Policy in the United States Sentencing Project, October, 2006
  • Briefing Sheet on Felon Disenfranchisement Sentencing Project, August, 2006(frequently updated)
  • Losing the Right to Vote: Perceptions of Permanent Disenfranchisement and the Civil Rights Restoration Application Process in Kentucky Sentencing Project, Elizabeth A. Wahler, April, 2006
  • Why the Census Bureau can and must start collecting the home addresses of incarcerated people Prison Policy Initiative, February, 2006“Counting prisoners as residents of the prison location causes unexpected distortions in Census data for rural communities and creates significant burdens on state and local legislative data users who rely on the Census for redistricting purposes.”
  • A 'Crazy-Quilt' of Tiny Pieces: State and Local Administration of American Criminal Disenfranchisement Law Alec Ewald, Sentencing Project, November, 2005
  • Voting While Incarcerated: A Tool Kit for Voting Rights Advocates American Civil Liberties Union, September, 2005(At midyear 2004, there were close to 714,000 people detained in our nation's jails, and the majority were eligible to register and vote.)
  • Studies of Voting Behavior and Felony Disenfranchisement Among Individuals in the Criminal Justice System in New York, Connecticut, and Ohio Sentencing Project, September, 2005(Prisoners with felony convictions)
  • report thumbnail Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From Eric Lotke and Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2005
  • Issue Brief on the Impact of Incarceration & Reentry: Rhode Island's Shrinking Black Electorate Rhode Island Right to Vote Campaign, February, 2005
  • Barred for Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States Sentencing Project, January, 2005
  • Taxation Without Representation: Why Rhode Island needs to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions living in our communities Rhode Island Right to Vote Campaign, 2005
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Montana Prison Policy Initiative, December, 2004
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Nevada Prison Policy Initiative and Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, December, 2004
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Texas Prison Policy Initiative, November, 2004
  • Triple-Decker Disenfranchisement: First-Person Accounts of Losing the Right to Vote among Poor, Homeless Americans with a Felony Conviction Sentencing Project, November, 2004
  • No Second Chance: People with Criminal Records Denied Access to Public Housing Human Rights Watch, November, 2004
  • report thumbnail Actual Constituents: Students and Political Clout in New York Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2004(how students are counted in the Census, why that makes sense (as opposed to how prisoners are counted) and why it makes no sense at all for some counties to discourage students from voting locally)
  • report thumbnail Jim Crow in Massachusetts? Prisoner disenfranchisement Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2004
  • Purged! How Flawed and Inconsistent Voting Systems Could Deprive Millions of Americans of the Right to Vote ACLU, October, 2004
  • Political Punishment: The Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement for Rhode Island Communities Rhode Island Family Life Center, September, 2004
  • The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement In Atlanta, Georgia Sentencing Project, September, 2004
  • The 50-State Report on Re-Enfranchisement: A Guide to Restoring Your Right to Vote Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, September, 2004
  • The Disenfranchisement Of The Re-Enfranchised: How Confusion Over Felon Voter Eligibility in Ohio Keeps Qualified Ex-Offender Voters From the Polls Prison Reform Advocacy Center, August, 2004
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Ohio Prison Policy Initiative, July, 2004
  • report thumbnail Too big to ignore: How counting people in prisons distorted Census 2000 Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2004
  • Felony Disenfranchisement Rates for Women Sentencing Project, March, 2004
  • Prisoners Gerrymandering Project Miscounting prisoners undercounts democracy Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2004
  • Diminished Voting Power in the Latino Community The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in Ten Targeted States MALDEF, December, 2003
  • Punishing at the Polls: The Case Against Disenfranchising Citizens with Felony Convictions Alec Ewald, Demos, December, 2003
  • Legislative Changes on Felony Disenfranchisement, 1996-2003 Sentencing Project, September, 2003
  • Disenfranchised Veterans in the United States Sentencing Project, June, 2003
  • Incarceration and Enfranchisement: International Practices, Impact and Recommendations for Reform Brandon Rottinghaus, International Foundation for Election Systems, June, 2003
  • The Partisan Politics of Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement Laws (excerpts) Jason Belmont Conn, May, 2003
  • Jail-based voter registration campaigns Sentencing Project, May, 2003
  • State-Based Advocacy on Felony Disenfranchisement Sentencing Project, February, 2003
  • Democratic Contraction: Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States Profs. Uggen and Manza, November, 2002
  • Impact of Recent Legal Changes in Felon Voting Rights in Five States Profs Uggen and Manza, October, 2002(Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas)
  • Summary of Changes to State Felon Disenfranchisement Laws, 1865-2003 Profs. Uggen and Manza, September, 2002
  • Re-Enfranchisement! A guide for individual restoration of voting rights in states that permanently disenfranchise former felons Advancement Project, September, 2002
  • report thumbnail Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2002(Study of the effect of counting urban prisoners as rural residents for purposes of state legislative redistricting)
  • Justice Denied: How felony disenfranchisement laws undermine democracy Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund, March, 2002
  • Criminal Disenfranchisement in Minnesota Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, January, 2002
  • Regaining the Vote: An Assessment of Activity Relating to Felon Disenfranchisement Laws Sentencing Project, January, 2000
  • Losing the Vote '98 Sentencing Project & Human Rights Watch, October, 1998
  • Felon Disenfranchisement: Pennsylvania's Sinister Face of Vote Dilution Jon E. Yount, March, 1998
  • Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felons: A State-by-State Survey Office of the Pardon Attorney, October, 1996(This is an updated, state-only version. The original version, which includes federal information, is available through the Nat'l Criminal Justice Reference Service (

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