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Can a drug possession conviction affect my voting rights?

For individuals in Georgia with a felony drug possession conviction, you may wonder whether you can still vote. While voting is a fundamental right and civic duty, it can be revoked in certain circumstances, including specific criminal convictions.

Understanding felony disenfranchisement

Felony disenfranchisement refers to the practice of denying voting rights to individuals convicted of a felony. The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocating criminal justice reform, reports that over 5.8 million Americans face disenfranchisement due to felony convictions, affecting approximately 2.3% of the voting-age population.

What about Georgia?

Georgia, unfortunately, holds one of the highest rates of felony disenfranchisement, affecting 3.8% of its voting-age citizens. More than 266,000 individuals in Georgia are unable to exercise their right to vote due to felony convictions.

Impact of drug possession convictions on voting rights

In Georgia, the law stipulates that individuals convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude lose their voting rights until the completion of their sentence. However, the law does not distinctly define moral turpitude, resulting in the application of voting rights loss to all felony offenses, irrespective of the crime’s nature or severity.

Consequently, a drug possession felony conviction in Georgia leads to the forfeiture of voting rights until the sentence, including prison time, parole and probation, are fulfilled. Additionally, the individual must settle all associated fines and fees before the restoration of voting rights.

What about misdemeanors?

For drug possession misdemeanors in Georgia, voting rights remain unaffected. However, those incarcerated for misdemeanors need to request an absentee ballot from facility administrators and register to vote, if necessary.

Restoring voting rights

Upon completing the sentence for a drug possession felony in Georgia, individuals can regain their voting rights by re-registering to vote. Online registration is available for those with a valid driver’s license or identification card from the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Alternatively, individuals without a Georgia driver’s license or ID card can submit a mail-in application or register in person at their county’s voter registration office.

When registering to vote, no proof of sentence completion is required. However, it is advisable to retain documents confirming the fulfillment of prison time, parole, probation and payment of all fees and fines in case of eligibility disputes.