Voting With a Conviction History / Criminal Record in California
Over the last several years, legal and legislative victories have expanded the right to vote for people with criminal convictions in California. As a result of a 2015 litigation victory in Scott v. Bowen – a case which LSPC co-counselled with several ally organizations – and a 2016 policy victory with LSPC co-sponsored bill AB 2466, many Californians can now vote even if they are currently serving a sentence for a felony. See more information below about the right to vote in California with a conviction!
What Are My Voting Rights if I Have a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor conviction does not affect your right to vote at all. You can vote in all elections.
What Are My Voting Rights if I Have a Felony?
If you have a felony conviction, you CAN vote if:
- You are in county jail under Realignment (for a non-serious/non-sexual/non-violent felony),
- You are on mandatory supervision or post-release community supervision,
- You are on probation, even if you are in jail as a condition of your probation, or
- You have completed your state parole. See below for information on re-registering.
If you have a felony conviction, you CANNOT vote if:
- You are currently serving time in a state prison (or serving a state prison sentence at an institution that contracts with CDCR), or
- You are currently on state parole. See below for information on re-registering.
Can I Vote While I Am in Jail?
YES! Almost all otherwise eligible voters in county jail keep their right to vote, including:
- People awaiting trial for any crime,
- People in county jail for a misdemeanor conviction,
- People in county jail for a Realignment felony conviction, and
- People in county as a condition of probation or for a probation violation.
The only otherwise eligible voters who cannot vote in county jail are those who are there for a state parole violation or who are serving a state prison sentence under a jail contract with CDCR (for a serious, sexual, or violent felony). To register to vote while in jail, ask a guard or counselor for a voter registration application. If they refuse to give you one, write to your local elections office to request an application. Voter registration applications must be postmarked at least 15 days before Election Day. To vote while in jail if you are already registered, write to your local elections office to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received by within 3 days after Election Day.
After you finish state parole for a CDCR felony, your right to vote is automatically restored. However, you will need to re-register in your county of residence.
You can register in any California county online by visiting www.registertovote.ca.gov. Online registration is available in many languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.
You can pick up a paper voter registration application at your county elections office, public library, Department of Motor Vehicles office, or U.S. post office. Your voter registration application must be filled out completely and must be postmarked or hand-delivered to your county elections office at least 15 days before the election.
Voting With a Criminal Record in Other U.S. States
To find out about your right to vote in states other than California, check out this handy website.
We Want to Hear from You!
If you feel that your California voting rights have been violated because of your criminal conviction, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to find out more about our organizing and advocacy work related to voting rights for people with criminal convictions, contact email@example.com.