Monday, August 17, 2020

Restoration of Voting Rights

In countless change-of-plea hearings, judges have told my clients that the conviction they are about to receive will cost them their right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the right to serve on a jury. At this point in the plea colloquy, I sometimes whisper in the client’s ear and remind them that “you should get those rights back once you’re off paper."

Many of my clients are surprised when I tell them that they will likely be able to vote once their supervision is over. Here in Kansas, a felony conviction leads to a temporary loss of the right to vote. Kansas law automatically restores voting rights to persons with felony convictions once they have completed the terms of the sentence (including any supervision). Under K.S.A. 21-6613, a person with a felony conviction gets the restoration of their right to vote, to hold public office, and to serve on a jury once they complete the terms of their sentence. So the person is free to register to vote as soon as their supervision is complete.

So it is across the state line in Missouri. Under Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 115.133(2) & 561.026(1), a person convicted of a felony is generally unable to vote until they are finished with any term of incarceration or probation or parole. But after the terms of the sentence are completed, the right to vote is restored. (Although it appears that a felony conviction will forever disqualify a person in Missouri from serving on a jury. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 561.026(3)).

The restoration of rights is something to keep in mind when advising clients about the collateral consequences of any felony conviction in federal court. You should advise clients that they will lose their right to vote (and to hold public office and to serve on a jury) with their conviction. But the loss of these civil liberties is usually temporary. Once the client finishes the terms of their sentence, they will again be eligible to vote if they live in Kansas or Missouri (or in many other states). -Carl Folsom

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