What is Felony Disenfranchisement?
If you are convicted of a felony in Georgia, your right to vote is in jeopardy.
Criminal charges for felony crimes in Georgia are a serious matter. They involve heavy fines and court costs, a potentially lengthy prison sentence, and a criminal record that follows you the rest of your life, impacting your ability to obtain housing, jobs, and an education. Your charges can also deprive you of certain other rights, including the right to vote. Felony disenfranchisement is the term used to describe the suspension or withdrawal of your voting privileges.
Crimes That Could Result in Felony Disenfranchisement
Felony disenfranchisement has been a hot topic over the past year, particularly in light of recent Presidential elections. According to The Sentencing Project, a non-profit group that advocates against overly harsh sentences and promotes fairness in the criminal justice community, more than 6.1 million people are disenfranchised voters, meaning that they are prohibited from participating in local, state, or national elections.
Being denied voting rights is just one of many serious penalties people face for being convicted of a felony crime in Georgia. Common types of criminal charges that are considered felony offenses and could result in felony disenfranchisement or loss of voting privileges include, but are not limited to:
Controversy Over Felony Disenfranchisement in Georgia
The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) advises that it is common practice in the United States to restrict the voting rights of people convicted on felony criminal charges, in some cases permanently. However, it is still up to each state to make their own rules and guidelines. Some allow for automatic restoration of voting rights once the felon’s prison sentence is completed, all parole requirements are met, and any outstanding fines, court costs, or other debts associated with the crime, such as restitution to victims, are paid.
In Georgia, there has been some controversy in regards to how to handle felony disenfranchisement. A September 2020 Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) article reported that a notice was posted on the Georgia Secretary of State website stating that felony offenders could vote in upcoming elections even if they still owed money for restitution, court costs, and other charges. This is contrary to previous practices that required all debts to be paid. The goal was to allow as many people as possible to legally register to vote prior to the deadline of October 5, 2020.
The report claims that as there are close to 250,000 convicted felons in Georgia, this could potentially free up thousands of people who would otherwise not have been able to vote in the Presidential elections. Advocates claim that loosening the restrictions is the right thing to do, as felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact lower income and minority communities. This unjustly lessens their voices in a variety of important matters.
Request a Consultation with Our Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are facing criminal charges or have unfairly been denied your voting rights, reach out to Zimmerman & Associates. Call or contact our Norcross criminal defense attorneys online and request a consultation today.