Post-Incarceration Restoration of Voting Rights

July 23, 2012

For the 35 states that still disenfranchise nearly 4 million people with criminal records who are back in their communities, the Brennan Center for Justice proposes automatic post-incarceration voting rights restoration.  

Under this system, which is detailed in our policy proposal Restoring the Right to Vote, citizens released from prison are immediately eligible to vote while on parole, as are those who are sentenced to probation without serving any time in prison.  They are permitted to register in precisely the same way as any other eligible citizen, without submission of special paperwork. 

Restoring voting rights to people as soon as they are released from prison will:

  • Strengthen our democracy.  The right to vote forms the core of American democracy.  A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation. 
  • Advance civil rights.  Felony disenfranchisement laws are firmly rooted in the Jim Crow era and were intended to bar minorities from voting.  The intended effects of these laws continue today: nationwide 1 in 7 African-American men are disenfranchised.
  • Aid law enforcement.  Allowing people to vote after release from prison encourages participation in civic life and helps rebuild ties to the community that motivate law-abiding behavior.
  • Facilitate election administration.  Restoring voting rights to people out of prison eliminates the opportunity for erroneous purges of eligible citizens from the voting rolls and relieves confusion among election officials and the public about who is eligible to vote.


We have drafted a model bill which details how best to restore voting rights upon release from prison.

Back to Restoring Voting Rights