Public Split on Allowing Felons to Vote, says FindLaw Survey

Nov 05, 2015, 09:00 ET from FindLaw

EAGAN, Minn., Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans are split on whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote, according to a new survey by, the most popular legal information website.

Thirty-three percent of Americans feel felons should be allowed to vote, according to the FindLaw survey. Forty-two percent say felons should not be allowed to vote. And twenty-nine percent are undecided on the issue. 

The Obama administration recently announced plans to release more than 6,000 inmates from federal prisons in order to relieve prison overcrowding and rollback harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, and it announced a new initiative to encourage rehabilitation and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into their communities.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans could not vote in the 2008 election because of their status as convicted felons, according to The Sentencing Project.

Laws on felon voting rights vary from state to state. Felons permanently lose their right to vote in some states. In other states, ex-felons regain their vote to vote after completion of their sentence. In some states, ex-felons must apply to have their voting rights restored. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated.

"The patchwork of state laws covering voting rights for felons in some ways mirrors the survey results showing Americans have widely differing opinions on this issue, with a significant percentage of those surveyed unsure of how it should be dealt with," said Tanya Roth, an attorney and editor with "State laws vary considerably, from no loss of voting rights to permanent loss of voting rights, and everything in between. For instance, in some states, it requires an action from the governor or a clemency board to restore an ex-felon's voting rights." 

Free information on voting rights can be found on websites such as FindLaw's "Learn About the Law" section ( 

The FindLaw survey was conducted using a survey of a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.


Alex Cook