Loss and Restoration of Voting Rights in Alaska

Loss and Restoration of Voting Rights in Alaska

Moras, Antonia. (Summer 2004). "Loss and Restoration of Voting Rights in Alaska." Alaska Justice Forum 21(2): 11. Article V, Section 2 of the Alaska Constitution provides for the disenfranchisement of anyone convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude.” This article details the Alaska laws which deprive felons of their right to vote and provide for the restoration of their voting rights once their sentences (including probation or parole, as well as incarceration) have been served, and estimates the number of Alaska felons affected.

In Article V, Section 2, the Alaska Constitution provides for the disenfranchisement of anyone convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude.” Alaska Statute 15.05.030 addresses the details of this loss of voting rights and provides for restoration. Those convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude under either state or federal law lose the right to vote in all elections while they are under sentence, including both the incarceration and probation or parole segments of a sentence. After the sentence is completed, an individual may vote again. Unlike in some other states, this restoration of voting rights does not involve a specific appeal to a state office, only re-registration with the Division of Elections.

A list of crimes defined as involving moral turpitude appears under AS 15.060.010. It includes nearly all felony-level crimes.

Misdemeanants do not lose voting privileges. Misdemeanants who are incarcerated may vote by absentee ballot, as can those individuals who are being held in pre-trial status.

In Invisible Punishment, a collection of essays on the ancillary effects of the explosion in the size of the prison population, Marc Mauer states that the loss of voting rights has been an aspect of criminal law in this country since the colonial era, but that the effects of its application are more telling now because of the high number of people imprisoned. His essay “Mass Imprisonment and the Disappearing Voters” discusses the political effects of widespread disenfranchisement. An estimate by the Sentencing Project, which Mauer directs, places the number of currently disenfranchised voters in the country at 4.7 million. The demographics of the offender population suggest that to a great extent these disenfranchised live in poor and minority communities.

The specific application of disenfranchisement varies from state to state. Unlike in Alaska, the loss of voting rights in some states extends past the discharge of the sentence; sometimes it extends for life. Nevertheless, all states do have some process for restoration of voting rights, such as with an appeal for clemency to the governor. The process can be very cumbersome, with a long mandated waiting period before a petition can be considered.

Figures available on the Alaska Department of Corrections website (www.correct.state.ak.us) can provide an imprecise guide to how many people have their voting privileges affected in some way by being involved with the criminal justice system. On December 31, 2003, 4825 individuals were being held in facilities under the supervision of the department—in prisons, including the private facility in Arizona, and community residential centers. Another 4467 were on probation or parole. Of these totals, 2801 in the institutions were classified as felons, but this includes an unknown number of individuals being held on a pre-trial basis. The number of felony-level probationers/parolees was not available.

AM