Can a Felon Vote in Pennsylvania?

The founding of Pennsylvania goes way back to 1681 when King Charles II signed the Charter of Pennsylvania, a gesture to repay the King’s debt to Admiral Sir William Penn. With intentions to provide refuge for his fellow Quakers, Admiral Sir Penn’s son, William Penn, requested the King to grant him a land area between the then province of Maryland and province of New York. With its date of statehood on December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania became the ninth member of the original 13 colonies. Its capital is Harrisburg and has a total estimated population of 12,784,227 people as of July 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ monthly population report, there are 51,824 total residential populations as of December 31, 2016. This count is higher than from 2015 as released by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics which only reflected 49,858 prisoners under jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities, 47,039 of which are male and 2,819 of which are female.

The aforementioned counts represent a minority that deserves a just system just like anybody in the democratic lands of the United States. Felons undergo trials, are eventually judged, and are given consequences for their offences but are similarly offered a second chance when they have repaid their debts according to the law. This second chance involves the restoration of their rights which usually includes their voting rights which is not only a way to uphold democracy but also a sign of good governance which every state strives to provide.

Can Felons Vote in Pennsylvania?

Felon voting is dealt variably among the states all over the US. Some states have laws that permanently deprive an offender of their voting rights even after incarceration, serving parole, and settling their fines. Others are less restricted and at least two states allow voting while in prison.

As in other 13 states, Pennsylvania allows the automatic restoration of voting rights after an offender’s incarceration term. This however still requires an individual to re-register to be eligible to vote again.

According to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians who have been citizens of the US for at least a month before the next election and aging at least 18 years old are qualified to register and vote. Given the aforementioned criteria, it has also been indicated that felon voting is only applicable for: pretrial detainees, convicted misdemeanants in penal institutions, offenders who have completed their term of incarceration, people who are released on parole or under probation, and individuals under house arrest.

Individuals are however disqualified to exercise felon voting when: they are currently confined and convicted of a felony, under pre-release status and remaining in incarceration before the next election, and if they have been convicted of violating a provision of the state’s Election Code within the last 4 years.

How Felons Can Restore Voting Rights in Pennsylvania?

As aforementioned, it is a general rule under Pennsylvanian law to automatically restore an individual’s right to vote after their incarceration term as long as they have re-registered for it. According to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, qualified individuals may re-register through the following:

  • Mail. A voter registration mail application can either be obtained by contacting their county board of elections or by applying over the phone by contacting the Department of State at 1-887-VOTESPA (1-887-868-3772);
  • Internet. The voter registration application from the Department of State’s website can be downloaded at www.votespa.com and printed.

Sources

http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/pa-history/1681-1776.html

http://www.cor.pa.gov/About%20Us/Statistics/Documents/current%20monthly%20population.pdf

http://www.cor.pa.gov/How%20Do%20I/Documents/Convicted_felon_brochure%20-%20Voting%202016.pdf

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