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Can I Vote in Texas While on Parole?

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Can I Vote in Texas While on Parole?

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While many people mistakenly believe America is a democratic nation, our country is actually a constitutional republic. The big difference between the two systems is who holds the power. In a constitutional republic, individual citizens hold the power.

 That’s why voting rights and privileges are such a big deal in our country. Rather than being ruled by the majority, laws are created by representatives we collectively vote for.

It’s also why it’s so discouraging when that right to vote is taken away from you. If you’ve been arrested and convicted of a felony, then you already know just how disempowering it feels.

Are you currently out on parole in Texas and looking to have your voice heard in the next election? If so, then it’s important to answer questions like – can I vote in Texas while on parole? The answer may surprise you! Learn more below.

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Can I Vote in Texas While on Parole?

Once you’ve been released from jail after getting charged with a felony, it’s a whole new world! Suddenly, you don’t have someone dictating what you can and can’t do each hour of the day. Despite that, you still have to comply with any terms surrounding your release. For many, that means going through a period of time on probation or parole.

During this time, are you able to cast a vote?

The law in Texas is clear – you CANNOT vote while out on parole. You also can’t vote if you’re serving probation. Here are the parameters set by Texas law on who can vote and who can’t:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • You must be at least 18-years-old on the election day
  • You must be a resident of the county in Texas where you registered to vote
  • You must NOT be mentally incapacitated (as determined by a Texas court’s judgment)
  • You must NOT be a convicted felon who is in jail, on parole, on supervision or on probation

In short, if you want to regain your right to vote, then you’ll have to wait until after your parole term is completed. Once it is, your voting rights will automatically be given back to you. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to re-register to vote, though. We’ll give more details on how to restore your voting privileges below.

Consequences of Voting While on Parole in Texas

If you vote illegally during an election, then you could be charged with a new crime – voter fraud.

Voter fraud is a second-degree felony in Texas. That means you could be looking at a maximum of another 20 years behind bars for this one offense alone. Keep in mind that your penalties will likely increase if you were on parole when you committed the violation.

Voting fraud has always been a major concern, but the whole issue has grown exponentially since the 2016 Presidential election. For that reason, courtrooms in Texas are cracking down even harder on illegal voting.

Crystal Mason, a Texas resident, accidentally committed voter fraud by voting in 2016 while on community supervision. As a result, she’ll be serving five more years behind bars.

Restoring Your Voting Privileges in Texas

If you’re a convicted felon who has been pardoned by a politician, then you are eligible to vote right away. Otherwise, you’ll need to serve out your entire sentence including probation or parole.

According to experts, former felons are the most underrepresented voting group. It’s believed that eight out of ten citizens who have been to jail don’t realize that they could easily restore their voting rights by re-registering after completing their sentences.

Here’s what you should do if you want to restore your voting privileges after a felony in Texas:

  • Verify with your local court that you’ve served out your entire sentence and are eligible to vote
  • Obtain an application to register to vote from your County Clerk’s office
  • Fill out the form
  • Send your completed application to the County Voter Registrar’s Office

While filling out your registration form, you’ll notice that you need to provide your driver’s license number. If you haven’t gotten your driver’s license yet, then you can still register to vote. You’ll need to present proof of your identity when you go to vote, though. This proof could be a U.S. Passport, military identification or a personal identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Within 30 days of applying, you’ll receive proof of registration in the mail.

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House Bill 1419

Your voting rights are important, and your voice still matters even if you’ve been convicted of a felony in the past. The legislators in Texas recognize these facts. That’s why there are a few bills in motion that are designed to help.

House Bill 1419 is currently being considered, and its aim is to restore the right to vote to those who’ve been released from jail.

That means you’d be eligible to vote while on probation, supervision, or parole so long as you’re no longer incarcerated. Experts estimate that over 30,000 people would become eligible to vote in Harris County, Texas alone if the bill were to pass. 

Everything You Need to Know About Voting Privileges in Texas

Just because you committed a crime in the past doesn’t mean that your voice and opinion no longer matter. While Texas representatives are doing what they can, you still cannot vote while on parole in Texas.

If you’re hoping to start voting again soon, then you need to serve out the rest of your sentence first. You’ll also need to do everything you can to stay out of trouble with the law. Once you’ve successfully done so, your voting rights will automatically be restored.

From there, you’ll need to re-register to vote in the county you live in. If you’re concerned about committing voter fraud, then it’s advised you seek out counsel from an experienced attorney. They’ll advise you on your legal status, your rights, and your options.

 

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