Town hall meeting clears up misconceptions on voting rights for felons

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There's a common misunderstanding, that if you've committed a felony in Alabama, that you've permanently lost your ability to vote.

Thanks to a recently passed law, that's no longer true.

State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) says she hears this phrase far too often - "You know I can’t vote because I have a felony.”

That's not always the case, which is why she organized a town hall meeting Monday night at the Richard Showers Center. Speakers included representatives from the Alabama Governor's office and Secretary of State John Merrill.

They went over the details of two Alabama state laws that address felon voter rights.

“Unless you’ve had a felony conviction of a certain type crime, you may still be eligible to vote," says Merrill.

The following felonies never disqualify you from voting in the first place.

  • Felony DUIs
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Possession of a controlled substance for personal use
  • Possession of marijuana for personal use
  • Fraudulent use of a credit card
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Domestic violence
  • Attempted murder
  • Obstructing justice with a false identity
  • Indecent exposure

In other words, there's nothing stopping those who have committed felonies like these, from registering to vote.

More serious felonies are called "Crimes of Moral Turpitude" by the State of Alabama, and include the following:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Sodomy (any degree)
  • Sexual abuse (any degree)
  • Sexual torture
  • Incest
  • Parents/guardians permitting children to engage in obscene matter
  • Production of obscene matter involving a minor
  • Production or possession of obscene matter
  • Possession with intent to distribute child pornography
  • Enticing a child to enter a vehicle for immoral purposes
  • Soliciting a child by computer

Click here for the full list of moral turpitude crimes.

“Things that are crimes that people look at and people say those people need to be punished because of the severity of their crime," explains John Merrill.

Even if you committed a "crime of moral turpitude," that doesn't necessarily mean you can't regain the right to vote.

If you've served your sentence and paid all fines, there is a process you can undergo.

“You need to make sure you make application through the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles and you have to ensure you’ve gone through that entire process," explains Merrill.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles can reinstate your voting rights, even if they don't deem your case worthy of a full criminal pardon.

Rep. Hall says it's worth the time to check, especially considering an important election is next month and the deadline to register is in less than a week.

“They learn that if they qualify and can register, that they would have that opportunity to do that by November 27th," says Rep. Hall.

To register to vote, you can go to the Secretary of State's website or download the app, "Vote for Alabama."