Voting is one of the most fundamental rights in America – unless you have been convicted of a felony and are in prison, on parole, or on probation. In that case, you have been disenfranchised.
Article 6, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution says that the legislature shall pass laws to remove the right to vote from individuals who have been “convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes.”
Texas Election Code 11.002 (and 13.001) disqualifies the following individuals from voting:
1. Any person in prison
2. Any person on parole
3. Any person on felony probation.
As a result, in Texas felons are prohibited from casting a ballot until they successfully complete their sentence. But what if your case is pending or on appeal? What if you are on deferred adjudication probation? Or what if you pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing?
Here’s answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about felony voting rights in Texas.
Are felons allowed to vote in Texas?
An individual who has been convicted of a felony in Texas cannot register to vote until he or she has successfully completed his or her court-ordered sentence. This includes confinement, straight probation, or parole.
Can I vote if I’ve been convicted of misdemeanor in Texas?
Yes, you do not lose your right to vote if you are convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas.
Can I vote if I have a criminal case pending?
Yes, if you have a felony criminal case pending then it is not a final conviction. That means you can still vote. Merely being charged with a felony is not sufficient to keep you from voting. As long as you are not currently serving a felony sentence (including probated sentences and parole) you are eligible to vote.
What if I’m under felony indictment?
If you have been indicted – but not convicted – you can vote in the state of Texas. Again, you are only prohibited from voting if you have been finally convicted of a felony.
Can I vote if I am appealing my felony conviction?
Yes, if a conviction is on appeal, it is not considered a final conviction. Therefore, you can vote.
Can I vote if I’m on deferred adjudication probation?
Yes, deferred adjudication is not considered a final felony conviction so you can vote. According to Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.101, deferred adjudication is not a final conviction. As a result, a person on felony deferred adjudication, who is otherwise eligible to vote, may vote in Texas.
How can I restore my voting rights?
In some states, felons permanently lose their right to vote. Fortunately, Texas is not one of those states. Felons who complete their full sentence – including incarceration, probation, parole, or have obtained a pardon – will have their voting rights automatically restored. However, he or she must re-register to vote from the Secretary of State’s website.
If I have been to prison, how do I restore my right to vote?
In Texas, restoration of one’s right to vote is automatic after the sentence (including parole) is complete.
How do I find out if my felon voting rights have been restored?
The Texas Secretary of State is responsible for maintaining accurate voter registration. To find out if you are registered to vote, please visit their website at votetexas.gov.
Can I vote if I have pleaded guilty to a felony offense?
Possibly. You can vote if your sentence is not final – for instance if the sentence is on appeal. You can vote if your sentence (including parole or probation) is complete. You can vote if you are on felony deferred adjudication and are otherwise eligible to vote. You can vote if you have been pardoned.
How many people are disenfranchised due to felonies in Texas?
In 2016, there were over 161,500 people in Texas prisons, over 111,600 on parole, and over 216,000 on felony probation. That’s just shy of half a million voters (or one in every 80 voting-age residents) in Texas disenfranchised due to felonies.
What happens if I’m not eligible to vote, but I did so anyway?
If you are ineligible to vote but did so anyway, you could be prosecuted for voter fraud. And prosecutions do happen. In 2016 in Tarrant County, convicted felon Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years in prison after she voted while on supervised release for tax fraud. She argued that she didn’t know that Texas prohibited felons from voting until they finish their sentence entirely. Mason voted in the presidential election at the urging of her mother and cast a provisional ballot when poll employees couldn’t find her name on voter registration rules.
Learn more about voter fraud in Texas.
Can I take a picture of myself casting my ballot?
No, Texas bars the use of any “wireless communication device” or “any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound” within 100 feet of a voting station, according to the Texas election code. So taking photos, audio or video near a voting booth is illegal – unless you are an election officer or worker and it’s part of your job duty. Texas law doesn’t say what the punishment is for taking a ballot selfie, so most likely you would be asked to just turn off your device or to leave the polling place.
Questions about felony voting rights?
We hope you found this information about felon voting rights useful. If you have more questions, you can find additional resources here. If you are convicted felon and believe you may have violated a voting law in Tarrant County or North Texas, contact us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with an experienced defense attorney. The Texas Attorney General and local officials take these cases very seriously and will not hesitate to prosecute.