The offices of David Castañeda, Justice of the Peace, has released the following information:
Our office has been visited by former convicted felons inquiring of their right to vote. Our standard answer is to refer them to the County Voter Registrar. However, on one occasion the individual informed us that he had gone to the County Voter Registrar and had been told that he had to go to the District Judge’s office to get permission to register to vote. This is incorrect. Texas Election Code 11.002 defines “qualified voters”.
In terms of a felony conviction situation, a “qualified voter” is a voter who:
1.- “has not been finally convicted of a felony OR, if so convicted has:
a.- fully discharged the person’s sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole,
or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court;
2.- been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote:”
In plain words once someone’s debt to society is paid, the right to vote is restored.
Also, keep in mind that a conviction on appeal is not considered a final felony conviction.
“Deferred Adjudication” is not considered a final felony conviction. This falls under Article 41.12, Section 5, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Mere prosecution, indictment or other criminal procedures leading up to, but not yet resulting in final conviction, are not final felony convictions.
Rolando Pablos, Texas Secretary of State, has also been inundated with questions concerning the effect of felony convictions on voter registration, their response to callers and Voter Registrars is: “Pursuant to Section 11.002 of the Texas Election Code (the “code”), once a felony has successfully completed his or her punishment, including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or has been pardoned, then that person is immediately eligible to register to vote.”
Local Voter Registrars depend on a weekly list of all persons in the state who have been finally convicted of a felony that is matched by the Office of the Secretary of State to their statewide file of registered voters. When a possible match is found they forward that information to the appropriate county for action. HOWEVER, their official advice to the appropriate is NOT to immediately cancel a voter that has been identified as a possible convicted felon. INSTEAD they advise the Voter Registrar to investigate the voter registration of the individual pursuant to Section 16.033 of the Code. The Voter Registrar MUST send the voter written notice of the investigation and warn the voter that his or her registration may be cancelled if he or she does not respond within 30 days.
Unfortunately due to nationwide lack of knowledge on part of the citizenry and some of the Voter Registrars, it is claimed by some that nationwide preventing felons from voting is a form of vote disenfranchisement to the tune of about five (5) million voters.