Today is a very important day in the life of our country: Election Day. Today, thousands of Texans will head to the polls to make their voices heard in local and national races. Texas also has an early voting process, so many voters here have already visited polling places in the two weeks leading up to today.
Elections bring up many important questions about enfranchisement, which means the right to vote. Here in Texas, there have been many debates about voter registration, voter ID, and mail-in voting. These are at the forefront especially this year, as COVID-19 continues to be a major threat to the United States and the world. However, another major enfranchisement question has also been prevalent this year: can convicted felons vote in Texas?
The Right to Vote
Many of us think of the right to vote as foundational to our experience as Americans. However, that has not always been the case. Many of the founding fathers both accepted and endorsed severe restrictions on voting rights. In fact, the constitution left most of the decisions about who is allowed to vote up to the states. At that time, most state legislatures restricted the right to vote to white, male, landowners. Some states even required the potential voter to be a Christian. It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that the right to vote expanded to white men who didn’t own property. The late 1800’s and post-Civil War era brought expansion of voting rights to black men, but women were still disenfranchised. It wasn’t until well into the 20th century that the right to vote was extended first to white women, and later black women.
Felony Convictions and Voting
Well over 200 years after the founding, voting rights are still largely controlled by the states. As such, restrictions on voting vary from state to state. Many states have some restriction on voting for convicted felons. Some states never take away the right to vote due to criminal background, even during a prison sentence. Others permanently restrict the right to vote after a felony conviction. Still others have varying timelines on when voting rights are restored after a conviction.
In Texas, convicted felons can have their right to vote restored after their conviction has been fully discharged. This happens when they have finished serving their prison sentence, completed parole or probation, or had a sentence vacated.
However, they are not automatically re-enfranchised. Many previous convicts are under the impression that they are not allowed to vote. Because of this, they often don’t try to register. This misconception comes from the many states where this is true. In Texas, previous convicts can register to vote as soon as their sentence is discharged. They should also be prepared to present documentation to prove their sentence is complete.
A-EZ Out Can Help You Get Your Life Back
Regaining one’s voting rights is an important step toward getting back to normal after a felony conviction. The first step, of course, is getting out of jail. A-EZ Out can help put you on the road to recovery. Give us a call to get started.