The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the eleven states that deny voting rights to those who have completed their full sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime. A good overview of each state’s specific restrictions can be found at

[See article below map]

The United States stands out as one of the strictest nations in the world in denying voting rights to convicted felons. As of 2010, more than 5.8 million Americans — or about 2.5 percent of the voting age population — were unable to vote due to a current or previous felony conviction, according to a report by The Sentencing Project. That’s roughly one in every 40 adults in America.

Each state has its own felon voting laws, and all but two — Maine and Vermont are the only states that allow prisoners to vote —  have some kind of disenfranchisement law that prevents current or former offenders from casting their ballots.  The degree of severity varies dramatically by state and crime. The report found that nearly half of the disenfranchised population lives in the eleven states where voting rights for ex-felons are only conditionally restored.

Disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect African Americans: in 2010, 1 of every 13 African Americans of voting age — about 7.7 percent nationally —  was disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than with non-African Americans. In some of the strictest states — including Florida, Kentucky and Virginia —  more than 20 percent of the African American population was disenfranchised, the report found.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder called on the states with some of the strictest laws to restore voting rights to felons after their release from prison.

“It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision,” said Holder during an address at Georgetown University. “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.”

  • smokey

    can a person who has a guardian vote

    • Elwood Billshot

      If they are over 18 and register, yes. The possible exception ‘might’ be if they have been ruled to be mentally incompetent by a Federal Court. But I doubt it.

  • Virg Prit

    If a person has been ruled incompetent by a county, state or federal court they can not vote.

    • reggie98ud

      Right, and the state through the county in which they are incarcerated can label a past offender as incompetent due to their criminal past.

  • Frank Hartzell

    people need to read the constitution…The constitution states that the the right to vote can not be denighed or stoped for any reason.Read it ,by NO level of servitude,indebtedness,or level of incarceration.

  • Joel B. Taylor

    I believe there should be a simple basic multiple choice questionare before voting. Half the people in this country are idiots! If they can’t pass the test, they can’t vote. WE DONT NEED MORONS VOTING FOR MORONS LIKE OBAMA BIN LADIN!!!!!!!

    • entropos

      This comment section is a test to see who should or should not be qualified to vote. Sir, we’re sorry to inform you that you’ve failed. Please return your voter registration card forthwith.

  • John Coletti

    By the Constitution felons should be able to vote…. And I think if a felon pays taxes they should be able to vote!


Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, an online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at

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