Criminal Justice And Voting Rights

If you or anyone you know has been convicted of a felony or spent time in jail, you probably know that access to voting is one of the many challenges of our criminal justice system.

State laws about this are changing fast. It’s so important that elected officials hear from all of us while making crucial decisions on everything from when your voting rights are restored after a felony to if you are allowed to request an absentee ballot in jail.

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Criminal Justice and Voting Rights


Losing the right to vote because of a felony

An estimated 4.6 million Americans in 48 states have lost their voting rights because of felony convictions – that’s more than the population of Los Angeles. Black and Brown voters are much more likely to lose voting rights due to felony convictions.

  • 5.3% of the Black population has lost their voting rights (as opposed to 1.5% of the non-Black population)
  • 1.7% of the Latino population has lost their voting rights

The good news is that the number of people who are not eligible to vote because of a felony conviction has actually decreased by 24% since 2016. In that time, state legislation and ballot initiatives have restored voting rights to people who have been convicted of a felony and adjusted the amount of time served for certain convictions. That’s right – when you show up to vote, you can make real change.

Access to voting while in jail

In 2020, there were nearly 750,000 eligible voters in jail. But a vast majority of people in jail do not vote because there are significant barriers to voter registration, polling sites, mail-in ballot requests and even the ability to access postage. Funding, decision makers and policy to make sure citizens in jail can exercise their right to vote vary greatly from county to county and state to state.

Data shows us that the impact being in jail has on your voting rights varies greatly on your economic status, race, gender and sexuality.

State legislation, local policy and funding greatly impacts access to voting in jail. There are success stories and solutions to support jail voting – just look at Cook County, Illinois where state laws to support jail voting led to record turnout for the state primary in 2022.

If you’ve been impacted by the criminal justice system and need support in voting, or just want to learn more, check out these organizations:


You know all the things that make voting hard? Well if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you probably know it firsthand: higher rates of incarceration, youth homelessness, difficulty getting proper ID, systemic discrimination — all these things hit home. That’s why we need to speak out.
Voter ID laws “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” That’s not us saying so — those words come from a Federal court. We all know election laws have targeted or disproportionately impacted non-white voters for more than two centuries.
For some, taking time off to vote can come at too high a cost—no one should have to risk their job to vote. Did you know that voting access is directly tied to a better economy—including better jobs and working conditions?
In almost every state in America, some elected officials are trying to make it harder for you to vote. If you don’t like having your right to vote messed with, you can do something about it right now. Let’s Save The Vote!