Can people with a drug conviction vote?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 3-22-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 3-22-11.

Question of the Week: Can people with a drug conviction vote?

Just before the election last fall, the Sentencing Project reported,

“… more than 5 million citizens will be ineligible to vote in the midterm elections in November [2010], including nearly 4 million who reside in the 35 states that still prohibit some combination of persons on probation, parole, and/or people who have completed their sentence from voting.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisoners in 2009” report found that by year end 2008, 251,400 inmates were housed in state facilities as a result of a drug conviction. For 95,079 federal prisoners, a drug offense was the most serious offense.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ “Probation and Parole in theUnited States, 2008” calculated a total of 646,493 probationers for which a drug offense was the most serious offense. Similarly, there were 265,634 adults on parole as a result of a drug conviction.

Totaling all of the above numbers computes whopping 1,258,606  adults subject to disenfranchisement or the loss of voting rights for drug convictions in 2008.

The Sentencing Project’s 2011 report Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States states that

“48 states and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates from voting while incarcerated for a felony offense.  Only two states – Maine and Vermont – permit inmates to vote. … Two states deny the right to vote to all persons with felony convictions, even after they have completed their sentences.”

Those states are Iowa and Kentucky. Please check the report to find out where your state stands.

These facts and others like them can be found in the Civil Rights and Prisons and Jails Chapter of Drug War Facts at