Commentary

09.09.15

Don’t Be Confused! People With Criminal Convictions Can Vote in Ohio

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Voting Road Sign

Many states impose lifetime voting bans or restrict voting for people who are on parole, probation, or unable to pay court-related fines. The good news is that Ohio is not one of those states, but more on that later.

Now the Bad News

There’s a great deal of voter confusion and misinformation.

Nationally, about 5.86 million people are prevented from voting because of a criminal conviction. Additionally, it’s estimated that 1 out of 13 African-Americans is barred from voting because of voter disenfranchisement laws that target people with criminal convictions.

Our criminal justice system, which disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income people, also is working hand in hand with a voting system that excludes the same people from participating in the democratic process. This is “The New Jim Crow” at work.

Convicted of a Crime in Ohio?  

Although Ohio is the seventh largest prison state in the nation, state law allows individuals to vote if they have been:

  • Convicted of a misdemeanor, even if they are in jail.
  • Arrested for a felony but not convicted.
  • Convicted of a felony but are not currently incarcerated.
  • Placed on parole, probation, or required to live in a half-way house.

The only exclusion Ohio has is that people can’t vote if they are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction. However, these individuals can register to vote upon release and cast their ballots.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Each state has different laws regarding voting rights for people with criminal convictions, consequently this creates a great deal of confusion. Ohio is no different. Many Ohioans mistakenly think that people with criminal convictions can’t vote when in fact they can.

Visit our Vote Center. Read our blog post, “Vote: Let’s Get Free!” Share our “Voting Rights for People with Criminal Convictions” card.

It’s no wonder people are confused. Since the founding of our nation, different strategies have been used over time to prevent certain people from voting, including outright bans against women and black people, criminal disenfranchisement laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, and more recently, voter ID laws.

While confusion is understandable, we can’t let it rob thousands of people here in our state from exercising their right to vote. Help us spread the word that people with criminal convictions have a right to vote in Ohio. Share the “Voting Rights for People with Criminal Convictions” card, and support voting rights for all!

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