Connecticut Restores Voting Rights to People with Felony Convictions on Parole

By: - June 25, 2021 12:00 am

Connecticut residents vote in Stamford on Nov. 3. The Constitution State now allows people with felony convictions to vote once they finish their prison sentences. Jessica Hill/The Associated Press

Connecticut this week became the latest state to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions who are on parole.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a measure that will allow at least 4,000 Connecticut residents on parole to vote in future elections. The state previously permitted those with felony convictions to vote only once they were on probation.

This year, New York and Washington also restored voting rights to people with felony convictions who are released from prison. Twenty states now offer the franchise to previously incarcerated people with felony convictions. Proponents say the right to vote is a crucial step to rejoining the community after serving a prison sentence.

Connecticut’s provision was included in the state’s budget bill. A standalone measure passed the Senate last month but failed to get a House vote.

This law corrects a longstanding injustice in the Constitution State, argued Eliza Sweren-Becker, counsel in the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which advocates for expanded ballot access.

“Although they live and work in the state, the roughly 4,000 people on parole in Connecticut were prohibited from voting,” she said in a statement this week. “Now they will be able to participate fully as citizens in the decisions that affect them and their families.”

Some Connecticut Republican lawmakers opposed the measure, saying people convicted of felonies should fulfill the entirety of their punishment—parole and fines included—before they can vote again.

“An individual should successfully complete all the requirements imposed upon them when they are judged guilty of any serious crime,” said Republican state Sen. John Kissel during a May floor debate.

This disagreement remains a sticking point across the country. In Florida, Republicans rolled back a voter-backed measure that would have restored voting rights for people with felony convictions once they leave prison. The state now requires people to pay all their fines before regaining their voting rights.

There are still more than 5 million Americans who are denied the right to the vote because of their felony convictions, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that lobbies for the restoration of voting rights.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.