One of the most important rights every American citizen has is the right to vote. Voting gives us a chance to voice our opinion, participate in our democracy, and hold elected officials accountable for their actions while in office.
Many people who have been convicted of felony crimes believe that they are not allowed to vote in Michigan and most states in the country; however, that is one of the most common misconceptions about voting. The truth is only two states—Iowa and Kentucky—do not restore the voting rights of felons once they complete their sentence.
In Michigan, a convicted felon’s voting rights are restored without restrictions upon release from prison. Felons who are on parole or probation can also vote. Individuals who are currently incarcerated for a felony or a misdemeanor offense during an election are prohibited from voting. However, if a person is in jail awaiting arraignment or trial and has yet to serve a sentence, he/she can vote by submitting an absentee ballot.
Felons do not need to regain voting rights since they are automatically granted upon completion of their sentences. But remember, felons must register or re-register to vote.
Felons can register to vote by doing the following:
- Filling out a voter registration application in person at any Secretary of State branch office or their county, township, or city clerk’s office
- Filling out a mail-in voter registration application and mailing it to the local clerk
- When applying for public assistance (i.e. food stamps and Medicaid) at a state agency
- Filling out a voter registration application at a voter registration drive.
If this is your first time registering to vote and you plan on voting by mailing in an absentee ballot, you should register or deliver your registration form in person. First-time voters in Michigan are not allowed to vote by mail unless they are 60 years of age or older, have a disability, are living overseas, or asked the clerk’s office in person for an absentee ballot.
For more information about the voting rights of felons in Michigan, contact our Okemos criminal defense attorneys at White Law PLLC today.