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How does a felony conviction impact your right to vote in Ohio?

Here in Ohio, we've been inundated recently with a seemingly-endless barrage of ads from the presidential candidates. Every vote may be crucial to electing the next president.

However, many people wrongly believe that they are no longer allowed to vote because they have a felony conviction on their record. Often, they receive misinformation from other people they meet in prison.

States vary in their laws regarding the eligibility of people to vote once they've had a felony conviction. Ohio is actually one of the more lenient states. It is one of 14 states that allow people to vote once they've served their felony sentence.

The exception is a felony conviction involving a crime like voter fraud that could impact an election. Ohioans convicted of those crimes permanently lose their right to vote.

In many states, convicted felons can't vote as long as they're still on probation or parole. Nine states require a court order to get your voting rights reinstated.

In Ohio, your voting rights aren't automatically reestablished when you get out of prison. You have to re-register at least 30 days out from an election to be able to vote in that election.

It's important to note that if you have been charged with a felony but not yet convicted, you are still allowed to vote, even if you're incarcerated. You can have an absentee ballot sent to you. Those convicted of misdemeanors don't lose their right to vote, even while in prison, unless the misdemeanor is upgraded to a felony.

The continued right to vote is just one reason why it's essential for you and your attorney to work to mitigate the consequences of your action and try to avoid a felony conviction when you might be able to be charged with or plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead. If you have questions about your or a loved one's right to vote and re-registration after serving time, your Ohio criminal defense attorney can provide guidance.

Source: WDTN 2, "Felon voting rights in Ohio," Maytal Levi, accessed Nov. 01, 2016

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