The right to vote is an important civil right in a democracy as well as a civic responsibility, and yet many persons who have been convicted of a crime do not know whether they are eligible to vote. For both federal and state elections, the right to vote is controlled by the laws of the state in which you live.
The general rule is persons convicted of a felony, whether the defendant serves their term of incarceration in a state correctional facility or in a county jail, cannot vote while they are serving their term of incarceration for the felony. Once released from incarceration they must re-register to vote in order to restore their voting rights. All others in the criminal justice system may vote (such as pre-trial detainees, persons serving misdemeanor sentences in county jails, persons on parole or probation).
Can I vote while I'm incarcerated in Oregon?
No. You cannot vote in Oregon if you are incarcerated as a result of a felony conviction. Your right to vote is suspended from the date of sentencing until you are discharged or paroled, or until the conviction is set aside. You also cannot vote if the court stays the execution of your sentence for any purpose other than probation.
If you are a resident of another state who is temporarily incarcerated in Oregon, you may be able to vote by absentee ballot in your home state. You need to consult the law of your home state regarding both criminal convictions and absentee ballots to see if this is a possibility.
I have been convicted, but have not yet been sentenced. Can I vote?
Yes. You can vote until they are sentenced.
- 137.281(1): In any felony case, when the defendant is sentenced to a term of incarceration, the defendant is deprived of all rights…
I’m serving my sentence for a felony conviction in the county jail, not in prison. Can I vote?
No. You cannot vote
- 137.281 (2) states that subsection (1) applies to any term of incarceration…it does not specify the type of facility the person convicted of a felony must be incarcerated in to lose their voting rights.
- 423.475 & 423.478 address persons convicted of a felony being held in county facilities if their term of incarceration is 12 months or less.
Can I vote if I’ve been released from incarceration, but I am on parole?
Yes. Voting rights are restored when a person convicted of a felony is released from incarceration. However, the person does need to re-register to be eligible to vote.
Can I vote if I’ve been released from incarceration but I am required to wear an ankle bracelet?
Yes. You are no longer incarcerated and therefore on post-prison supervision.
I am incarcerated for a felony in another state (not Oregon). Can I vote in Oregon elections?
No. You cannot vote in Oregon.
- 137.281(2) states that subsection (1) applies to any term of incarceration…it does not specify where the person convicted of a felony must be incarcerated in order to lose their voting rights.
I have been convicted of a felony and am on a work release program – out on weekdays and incarcerated on weekends. Can I vote?
No. You cannot vote.
I am no longer in prison, but I am required to reside in a half way house. Can I vote?
No. You cannot vote.
I have been released from incarceration. How do I restore my right to vote?
Your right to vote is automatically restored upon discharge or parole from imprisonment. The right to vote shall be automatically withdrawn, however, if you are subsequently incarcerated for violation of the terms of your parole.
What if my conviction was for a federal crime?
If you are a resident of Oregon, the same rules apply whether you were convicted of a federal or state crime.
What happens if I move to another state?
If you move to another state, your right to vote will be controlled by the laws of that state.
What are Oregon's other voter registration requirements?
To vote in Oregon, you must be:
- an Oregon resident
- a United States citizen
- 18 years or older (you can register when you are 16)
When do I need to register to vote?
You may register at any time, but if you are a new Oregon resident you must register by the 21st day before the election. You can register the following ways in Oregon
- Mail a voter registration card to your county elections office. The voter registration card must be postmarked no later than the 21st day before the election.
- You can register in person at an elections office until the close of business on the 21st day before the election.
- With Oregon DMV ID, you can register online until 11:59 on the 21st day before the election.
If you are already a registered voter in Oregon, you can update your registration through 8 p.m., Election day by visiting your elections office. You can check your voter status by visiting MyVote.
Where do I register?
- With Oregon DMV ID, online at OregonVotes.gov
- Your county elections office.
- Oregon Dept. of Moter Vehicles (DMV) offices
- Many other locations include post offices, libraries and various private and public locations.
Comment: the Oregon Constitution removes voting rights “unless otherwise provided by law”. ORS 137.275 is the “otherwise provided by law” and 137.281 provides the specifics such as not being deprived of voting rights until sentenced.
137.281(1) States privileges are not revoked until the person is sentenced to a term of incarceration. Since this section doesn’t indicate a specific location of incarceration, it is assumed incarceration means in a county jail or in a state or federal prison. (2) States that subsection (1) refers to ANY term of incarceration. (3) Makes it clear that voting rights is one of the rights that may be deprived…although (1) makes it mandatory that their rights are deprived until release from incarceration or the conviction is set aside. (4) States that if the court orders a temporary stay of execution of sentence, in other words postpones incarceration temporarily, their rights are still deprived pursuant to (1). (5) Specifies that rights are deprived even if the person convicted of a felony is incarcerated in federal prison. (6) Gives the county clerk the right to cancel the person convicted of a felony’s registration. (7) States the rights are restored automatically upon release from incarceration. (7) references ORS 10.030 which, though speaking to jury service, it also states that if the person convicted of a felony is on parole and is subsequently imprisoned for a parole violation, the person convicted of a felony will once again be deprived of voting rights.