The right to vote is a principal asset of every American. Voting is the mouthpiece through which public opinion is expressed. As such, it offers us a ticket to active participation in the democratic processes.
It is widely believed among felons – In Michigan and other states – that their criminal records automatically disqualify them from voting. This laughable misconception has suddenly grown to become a general provision for voting.
Fact is, only two U.S. states – Kentucky and Iowa – do not restore felons’ voting rights on completion of their sentence.
Convicted felons in Michigan regain their voting rights with no forms of restrictions after jail. Convicts on probation and parole are also eligible. People currently serving a term for a felony or a misdemeanor during an electoral process are disfranchised.
For those in jail, awaiting trial or arraignment – and not yet served time – can vote by filing the absentee ballot.
Ex-convicts may not have to restore their voting rights, as they are automatically restored at sentence completion. However, an ex-convict must re-register or register before they can express their voting right.
What is a Michigan Felony?
In Michigan, felonies are the highest punishable offense. These crimes are severe and, if found guilty, can earn one up to a year’s jail time.
Michigan has eight different categories of felonies – labeled A to H. The alphabets determine the level of severity. E.g., while Class A crimes are most severe, class H’s are minor cases.
What is a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are crimes widely considered less severe than an actual felony. These crimes usually measure the severity of damage done to a second party, the amount of drug, and the cash value involved. When found guilty of a misdemeanor, the offender can still vote – except presently serving incarceration.
How Can a Felon Register to Vote After Serving Sentence?
- Complete the voter registration form at a Secretary of State office or a city, township, or county’s clerk office.
- Submitting a mail-in application form to the local clerk
- Completing a voter registration form
If this is your first voter registration and you wish to vote through an absentee ballot by mail-in, you need to mail your registration form or register in person.
That said, mail-in voting is not allowed for first-timers under 60years unless they are physically challenged, or reside abroad. You can also inquire about the absentee ballot at your local clerks’ office.
Can Felons Vote In Michigan?
ACLU of Michigan says clearly that an ex-convict can vote, so far they are out of jail. In Michigan, felons’ voting right is automatically regained after serving time.
Felony refers to crimes with, at least, a one-year sentence. So, if you’ve ever served time for an offense with a one-year minimum penalty, that’s a felony. Here are examples:
- Possession of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, or any regulated substance without prescriptions
- Possession of firearms
- Weapon assault
So, felons reserve their voting rights, except they are incarcerated during the polls. According to Michigan ACLU and state legislation, felony describes a crime punishable by, at least, one-year imprisonment – except otherwise stated by related statutes.
Restoring Felons Voting Rights in Michigan
Again, ACLU Michigan, posits that a citizen of the U.S. and resident of Michigan has the right to vote – as long as they are above 18, as at the scheduled election date, are eligible.
In Michigan, felons automatically regain their voting rights after satisfying all sentences pronounced by the law court. There is no use restoring rights, as they are automatically resumed at the end of a sentence.
Some Rights Michigan Felons Might Lose
- Right to Own or Possess Firearms
Both federal and Michigan state laws ban felons from possessing firearms. Michigan State laws particularly criminalize felons from having concealed weapons. However, in some circumstances – depending on the nature of the crime, – felons can restore their rights to possess firearms.
- Right to Be Part of a Jury
Felons are not eligible to serve as a juror in a federal Grand Jury or Michigan State courts.
- Felons are Ineligible to Own a Liquor License
To own an outfit that deals in or serves beer, liquor, and/or wine requires that a person obtains a Michigan Liquor license from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. Ex-convicts may not be licensed to run an establishment that sells or serves liquor.
However, a felon can become a waitress or bartender without a liquor license. Only owners of such liquor outfits require a permit.
- Military Do Not Admit Felons
Often, a felony conviction automatically disqualifies one from becoming military personnel.
- Gaming (casino) License
To work in either of Michigan’s three casinos demands a license. Felons are denied access to this license. Where a worker is already licensed, a conviction may cause you to lose the permit – and ultimately, their job.
Avoiding Problems On Election Day
- Confirm your registration before voting
- Check up your registration or contact your local clerk. Where necessary, register, or update your record.
- Find out beforehand and settle when and how you’ll vote before the scheduled election day.
- Check out a sample ballot, print it out, and come along with it.
- Voting in the middle of an election is less stressful. Polls run 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the scheduled date.
- Bring your identity proof along – this may include registration receipt, registration card, or any related certifiable document that has your data.
Other Questions About Felons’ Voting Right In Michigan
What qualifies me to register to vote in Michigan?
In Michigan, you must be:
- A U.S. citizenship
- A resident of Michigan and the township or city you wish to register, for a minimum of 30 days before the scheduled voting day.
- Not under 18 years by voting day.
- Not incarcerated on the day of the election after conviction or sentence for felony or misdemeanor.
Can a Homeless Vote?
Although you don’t need to have a home to register, you need to specify a residence during registration. However, your place of residence can be anywhere you stay– a park, a street corner, a shelter.
For your mailing address, you can use a local shelter, outreach center, an advocacy organization, or whoever can help you receive your mails.
What happens if my right to vote is challenged?
Request that they swear you in. Then, respond to any relevant question that certifies your eligibility. Once proven eligible, you’d be allowed to run a regular ballot.
What if I’m intimidated at the polls?
Approach a poll worker right away. If the intimidation is from the pool worker, talk to a poll watcher, then contact an election hotline or local clerk.
How can I make a complaint?
Find out who’s in charge of your polling unit. These officers are trained to attend to common issues that arise during elections.
If they can’t handle the issue, call your local clerk’s office. Or, better still, call (800) 292-5973 – Michigan Bureau of Elections Helpline or (313) 578-6800 ACLU of Michigan. You may also submit a legal complaint to the ACLU of Michigan, or by email via [email protected]
Read also: Felon Voting Rights in Texas | Can a Felon vote in Florida?