Can a Felon Vote in South Dakota?

South Dakota is a state in America. It is found in the Midwestern region of the country. Named after the Sioux Native American tribes Lakota and Dakota, the capital of South Dakota is Pierre. South Dakota is surrounded by the following states North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska. As of 2016, South Dakota has a population of 865,454.

South Dakota Department of Corrections has two main divisions –adult corrections and juvenile corrections. As of December 2016, the adult corrections system has a total population of 3,822. Meanwhile the juvenile corrections system is taking care of a total of 315 youth. The adult corrections system comprises of three main adult facilities, four community work centers for minimum-security inmates, a prison annex and parolees in the Community Transition Program, Prison Industries and Parole. The juvenile corrections system, on the other hand, provides in-state and out-of-state care for youth with specific needs. It also provides juvenile aftercare services and contractual foster care.

The right of suffrage is the one of the most basic human rights. However, due to felon disenfranchisement, thousands upon millions of Americans cannot make use of such right. In South Dakota alone, thousands are unable to vote and hold public office due to felon disenfranchisement. Therefore, felons cannot exercise their full rights, which is contrary to the very essence of democracy.

Can felons vote in South Dakota?

For felony convictions on or after July 1, 2012, South Dakota Codified Law provides that those convicted loses his or her right of suffrage. Such individual only becomes eligible to vote again upon completion of the term of his or her imprisonment. Meanwhile, a person who has a suspended imposition of sentence may still vote.

While for those convicted on or before June 30, 2012, it depends which court they are convicted in. Felons imprisoned due to a felony in a federal court and sentenced to probation, to pay a fine or to restitution, retain their right of suffrage. On the other hand, those sentenced to imprisonment loses the right of suffrage. The loss of the right of suffrage continues until the individual is incarcerated and up to supervised release.

Similarly, those sentenced to probation, payment of fines or restitution in State courts also retain their right of suffrage. Likewise, felons who receive a suspended imposition of sentence on a felony in State court also retain their right of suffrage.

However those who receive a suspended execution of sentence to the adult state penitentiary system and those who receive a sentence to the adult penitentiary system lose their suffrage during the term of their sentence.

How can felons restore their voting right in South Dakota?

Full suffrage is restored upon the completion of the felon’s sentence. The following are the steps in restoring the right of suffrage in South Dakota:

  1.  Upon the termination of the sentence, including the parole, the Corrections Secretary sends a certificate proving the restoration of felon’s rights.
  2. Afterwards, the Corrections Secretary provides a copy of the certificate with the court who tried the case.
  3. Upon receipt of such certificate, the felon can now register to vote.
  4. The following are the requirements to vote in South Dakota:
    1. be a citizen of the United States
    2. be a South Dakota resident
    3. be 18 years old and above on the day of the election
    4. be mentally competent
  5. Registrants may file their applications at the following:
    1. County auditor’s office
    2. City finance office
    3. Driver’s license station
    4. Military recruitment offices
    5. Public assistance agencies
    6. Department of Human Services (for the disabled)

Registration deadline is set fifteen (15) days before the day of the next election.

In states like South Dakota, felons are not permanently barred from voting. Those felons who wish to exercise their right of suffrage need only to register again after completion of their sentence and payment of the pertinent fines.


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