It is a common—and insidious—misperception that being convicted of a felony permanently deprives a Louisiana citizen of his right to vote. The truth is that your right to vote is only suspended for a felony conviction while you are incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. Once your sentence—whatever that is—has been completed, there is no restriction on your voting rights.
The Louisiana Constitution of 1974 expressly provides for the rights of Louisiana citizens to vote and to seek public office:
§10. Right to Vote; Disqualification from Seeking or Holding an Elective Office
Section 10.(A) Right to Vote. Every citizen of the state, upon reaching eighteen years of age, shall have the right to register and vote, except that this right may be suspended while a person is interdicted and judicially declared mentally incompetent or is under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony.
The Louisiana Supreme court has interpreted “under an order of imprisonment for a conviction of a felony” to include people on probation and parole. This simply means that, once a sentence is completed, there is no barrier for that person to vote or to register.
There are some practical issues to address, as well. The registrar of voters periodically is informed of people who have been convicted of felonies. Those names may be purged from the voter rolls. Consequently, if you have been convicted of a felony and have completed your sentence, you should check with your parish registrar of voters to determine if you are still “registered.” If your name has been purged, you simply need to re-register. You can even register online through the Louisiana Secretary of State online voter registration portal.
It may assist your registrar if you take a copy of your pardon or documents that show you have completed your probation. That is not required, however. You have the right to register to vote, if you are not under a court order of imprisonment.
It does not matter if your probation was discharged “satisfactorily” or “unsatisfactorily.” It does not matter if your parole was revoked. It does not matter if you did not complete paying all of your fees or restitution ordered under the terms of your sentence or probation. You do not need a pardon to vote. You do not need an expungement to vote. You do not need anyone’s permission to vote.
Bottom line: if your sentence, parole, or probation has been terminated, all you need to do is register (if you have been purged). You can re-register online here.
The Louisiana Expungement Assistance & Advocacy Center (LEAAC), a division of the law practice of S. Christie Smith IV, has extensive experience in obtaining expungements for convictions throughout the state of Louisiana, as well as in the development and application of the newly-reformed Louisiana expungement laws. We are fundamentally committed to protecting the constitutional rights of citizens to exercise their franchise, and to restoring voting rights to those who have lost them. If you have any questions about getting a Louisiana expungement, or about the restoration of your right to vote after a Louisiana conviction, please call LEAAC at 318.308.7667. An experienced Louisiana expungement lawyer will review your case, offer suggestions on the best course of action for your circumstances, and answer your questions—often on the same day.
Updated September 2015