Restoring Voting Rights After Incarceration in Hawaii
Restoring Voting Rights After Incarceration in Hawaii
Voting is one of our most fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. It gives us a say in how our communities and country are run. But in many states, people with felony convictions lose their right to vote, sometimes indefinitely. This disenfranchises millions of Americans and undermines our democracy.
Hawaii has some of the most progressive laws in the nation for restoring voting rights after incarceration. But the laws are still complicated, and many former felons don’t know their rights. This article explains Hawaii’s restoration process in simple terms, so anyone with a record can understand if and how they can get their vote back.
The Basics of Voting Rights Restoration in Hawaii
Here’s the quick rundown on regaining your voting rights in Hawaii after a felony conviction:
- If you were convicted of a felony in Hawaii state court, your right to vote is automatically restored as soon as you’re released from prison or parole.
- If you were convicted of a felony in federal court, your right to vote is automatically restored as soon as you’re released from prison, parole, or probation.
- There is no waiting period, and you don’t need to apply – your voting rights are restored automatically.
- You can register to vote as soon as you’re released from incarceration or supervision.
- The only exception is if a judge specifically revoked your voting rights. This is rare in Hawaii.
That’s the quick overview. Keep reading for more details on exactly how and when voting rights are restored in Hawaii for people with different types of convictions.
Voting Rights Restoration for State Felony Convictions
Let’s start with voting restoration if you were convicted of a felony in Hawaii state court. This includes both misdemeanor and felony convictions.
Hawaii state law says that the right to vote is automatically restored to people convicted of a state felony “upon the person’s final discharge or conditional release.”
This means as soon as you are released from prison or parole, your full voting rights are restored. There is no waiting period. You don’t need to apply or request restoration. It happens automatically.
For example, if you were convicted of a felony in a Hawaii state court and sentenced to 5 years in prison, your right to vote would be restored as soon as you walked out of the prison gates after completing your sentence. You could register to vote that same day if you wanted.
Or if you were convicted in Hawaii state court and sentenced to probation rather than prison, your voting rights would be restored immediately at your sentencing. You wouldn’t lose them at all.
The bottom line is: if a Hawaii state court convicted you of a felony, your voting rights bounce back automatically as soon as you complete your sentence and supervision.
What If I’m Still on Parole or Probation?
A common question is whether you can vote in Hawaii if you’re out of prison but still on parole or probation for a state felony conviction. The answer is yes!
As soon as you are released from physical confinement in prison, your voting rights are restored. The Hawaii Office of Elections confirms this explicitly on their FAQ page:
If you were incarcerated for a felony conviction in Hawaii state courts, your voting rights are restored once you are no longer incarcerated. This includes probation, parole, and final discharge from custody.
So even if you’re still completing parole or probation, you can legally vote in Hawaii as long as you’re no longer behind bars.
The Rare Exception: Judicial Voting Rights Revocation
There is one rare exception where someone convicted of a state felony in Hawaii may not automatically get their voting rights back. Hawaii law allows judges to permanently revoke someone’s voting rights if they think it’s warranted.
However, this almost never happens. One review found that only 26 people in all of Hawaii had their voting rights revoked by a judge from 1986 to 2012. So it’s extremely unlikely this exception will apply to you.
If a judge does revoke your voting rights permanently as part of a state felony conviction, you can petition the court to get your voting rights back after you complete your sentence. But again, permanent judicial revocation is very rare in Hawaii.
Voting Rights Restoration for Federal Felony Convictions
Now let’s talk about getting your vote back if you were convicted of a felony in federal court instead of Hawaii state court.
The rules are pretty much the same: Your voting rights are automatically restored as soon as you are released from federal prison, parole, or probation. There is no waiting period and no need to apply for restoration.
For example, say you were convicted of a federal felony like mail fraud or conspiracy to distribute drugs across state lines. If you were sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, your right to vote would automatically be restored the day you walked out of that prison.
Or if you got 5 years probation instead of prison time for a federal felony conviction, you wouldn’t lose your voting rights at all. They would stay intact.
The key is that as soon as your sentence ends, your voting rights are back. Hawaii doesn’t make you wait extra time or petition to get them back if your conviction was in federal court instead of state court.
One Catch: Registering with a Criminal Record
There is one catch when it comes to registering to vote if you have a federal felony conviction. When you register, you have to check a box that says:
I affirm that I am not incarcerated for a felony conviction and I am not precluded from registering to vote under federal or state law.
This reflects the fact that people currently incarcerated for a federal felony are not eligible to vote. If you check this box and it’s not accurate, you could face penalties.
The good news is, you’ll know it’s accurate as long as you register after your release from federal prison or supervision. Just be sure to wait until after your sentence is complete before registering.
How to Register to Vote After Incarceration
Registering to vote after your rights are restored is easy in Hawaii. Here are the options:
- Online – Register at olvr.hawaii.gov. You’ll need a Hawaii driver’s license or state ID.
- By mail – Print and mail the Hawaii Voter Registration form.
- In-person – Visit any voter service center and register.
That’s all there is to it! As long as your voting rights have been restored, registering is quick and easy.
One tip: If you register online or by mail, your voter card will be mailed to the address you provide. Make sure it’s somewhere you get mail regularly so you actually receive your card.
Confirming Your Voter Registration
The Hawaii Office of Elections recommends that after registering, you confirm your registration before Election Day. Here’s how:
- Check online – Look yourself up in the voter registration database using your name and birthdate.
- Call – Call your County Elections Division and ask if you’re registered.
- Visit in-person – Go to your County Elections Division and have them look up your registration.
This takes just a few minutes but ensures there were no issues processing your registration. It’s an important final step before casting your ballot.
Voting Early or Absentee
Once registered, you can vote early, absentee, or on Election Day itself. Hawaii makes early and absentee voting really easy.
For early voting, you can go in-person to a voter service center up to 10 days before an election. Find locations here.
To vote absentee, request a mail ballot online and return it by mail or at a drop box. See instructions here.
The convenience of early and absentee voting eliminates obstacles and ensures high turnout. As soon as your rights are restored, take advantage of these options.
Empowering Formerly Incarcerated People to Vote
Voting gives citizens power over the policies that shape their lives. For justice-involved individuals, participating in elections can aid reintegration and reduce recidivism.
That’s why automatically restoring voting rights upon release, as Hawaii does, is so important. It removes barriers and empowers those who’ve served their time to be active citizens.
Spread the word to formerly incarcerated people that their voting rights bounce back automatically in Hawaii once they complete their sentence. Make sure they know how to register and vote.
If you have a felony conviction from any state, refer to this article to understand your rights in Hawaii. Let’s get out the vote among all eligible citizens!