Can a Felon Vote in Rhode Island?

Despite being the smallest among the US states, at only about 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, the Rhode Island (RI) proved that size did not matter to achieving progress as it became the first of the original 13 colonies to claim independence from England on May 4, 1776. It has been governed under Royal Charter for 180 years as passed by King Charles II since 1663. Rhode Island was also the last state among the original 13 colonies to have the US Constitution ratified on May 29, 1970. Rhode’s current capital is Providence and as of July 2016 records 1,056,426 total estimated populations according to the US Census Bureau.

The Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) claims in its Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Population Report that RI has 197 offenders out of every 100,000 individuals, coming out third lowest in incarceration rates among all the states, with the national rate at 439 offenders out of 100,000 US residents. Their recent average total of populations is 3,067 inmates with average male populations of 2,944 and average female populations of 124. Majority of offenders were white, followed by black and Hispanic while only less than 2% of the total populations belonged to another race or did not identify with any.

Felon voting is not only an advocacy to promote democracy within the nation. Laws in different states have been provided to support this right as in the US Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote by ex-offenders is not only upheld by non-profit organizations and moral defenders of justice but also remains constitutional and backed by the law.

Can Felons Vote in Rhode Island?

Among all the US states, a majority of 20 allow for the restoration of voting rights to felons who have finished their term of incarceration, served their parole, and has gone through their probation. Followed by the majority are 14 states which also has lesser restriction and allows voting rights at least after an offender has been released from incarceration.

The Rhode Island belongs to the latter mentioned above. According to the Rhode’s laws on voting rights, such right is restored after an individual convicted of a felony has served their incarceration term and has been discharged.

The right to vote is retained and extended to incarcerated people who have only been charged but not yet convicted of a felony, and whether they are charged or convicted of misdemeanor.

The other general qualifications for felons to be able to vote includes: US citizenship, at least 18 years of age on Election Day, current residency at Rhode Island, and a legally unquestioned mental capability.

How Felons Can Restore Voting Rights in Rhode Island?

As in other 13 states that automatically restore voting rights after incarceration, the Rhode Island allows ex-offenders to exercise their right to suffrage once more only when they have re-registered for it. It is the responsibility of the DOC to inform offenders upon their release of this privilege. The DOC is also tasked to serve as a voter registration agency by forwarding accomplished voter registration forms to the board in charge where the applying person currently lives in.

Sources

http://sos.ri.gov/divisions/Civics-And-Education/RI-History

http://www.doc.ri.gov/administration/planning/docs/FY16%20Population%20Report.pdf

http://www.elections.state.ri.us/faq/

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