If you are unsure of whether you are legally allowed to vote or not as a Convicted Felons, Convicted Misdemeanants and Pretrial Detainees, the PA Department of State has released new guidelines that can help you better understand your eligibility.
Who Can Register to Vote
- You may register and vote if you hold citizenship in the United States for at least one month before the next election
- A Pennsylvania resident and have lived in your election district for at least 30 days before the next election
- At least 18 years of age on the day of the next election.
If you meet the above qualifications, you can register and vote if you are:
- Pretrial detainee confined in a penal institution awaiting trial on charges of a felony or a misdemeanor;
- Convicted of a misdemeanor and are confined in a penal institution;
- Released (or will be released by the date of the next election) from a correctional facility or community confinement facility upon completion of your term of incarceration for conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony;
- On probation or released on parole;
- A parolee living in a community confinement center (except for state intermediate punishment (SIP) inmates);
- Under house arrest (home confinement), regardless of conviction status or the status of the conditions of confinement.
Who Cannot Register to Vote
You are not eligible to register and vote if you:
- Are currently confined in a penal institution for conviction of a felony (even if you are also incarcerated for one or more misdemeanor offenses) and will not be released from confinement before the next election;
- Are in a community confinement facility or other alternative correctional facility for conviction of a felony and will not be released before the date of the next election;
- Were convicted of violating any provision of the Pennsylvania Election Code within the last four years.
Where to Register
If you are in a penal institution, your residence for voter registration is:
- The last place you registered to vote before confinement in a penal institution; or
- Your last known address before confinement; or
- A new residence established while confined (for example, if your spouse establishes a new residence where you intend to reside upon your release from confinement).
A penal institution or community confinement facility cannot be your residence address for registering to vote; however, you may use those locations for your mailing address. If you are currently confined in a penal institution for the conviction of a misdemeanor only or if you are awaiting trial, you must register from your last known address before confinement or an address (other than the penal institution) that you have established as your permanent residence.
How to Vote if You Are Confined in a Penal Institution
Contact your county board of elections to request an absentee ballot application or download, complete and mail the absentee ballot application to your county board of elections.
Upon receiving your absentee ballot, you must:
- Complete the ballot in secret, enclose it in the envelope marked “Official Absentee Ballot” and then place it in the second envelope.
- Fill out, date and sign the declaration of the elector printed on the second envelope.
- Seal the envelope and mail it to your county board of elections.
We cannot stress enough the importance of following the rules of your secret absentee ballot. Pennsylvania will become the first and only state to disqualify ballots received without a required secrecy envelope — referred to as “naked ballots” — while giving voters no recourse to fix the mistake. This video is incredibly helpful.