Voting with a Criminal Conviction in Ohio
If you have a felony criminal conviction and have not been found guilty of violating the state’s election laws, you are legally allowed to vote in Ohio. However, if you have served time in prison or jail for committing a felony crime, you must re-register to vote after you are released. Voting rights are automatically restored after a person’s release from prison. All people on parole or probation can vote.
Are You Currently Detained in Jail?
Individuals serving time for a misdemeanor or who are in pretrial detention are still allowed to vote. Your voter registration is only revoked if you are convicted of a felony and mandated to serve time in a correctional facility, even a halfway house. You are also not permitted to vote if you violate your probation or parole for a felony crime and are remanded to prison.
If you are in jail for a misdemeanor or awaiting trial on Election Day, you must request that your absentee ballot be sent to the jail. You can do this by:
- Completing a new voter registration form. If you are a new voter or your registration was previously suspended because you were incarcerated for a felony, you must complete a new registration at least 30 days before the next Election Day.
- Updating your Registration. If you have moved or changed your name since you last voted and you are in jail, you need to update your voter information by filling out form 11-I, “Application for Absent Voter’s Ballot by Voter with Unreported Change of Address and/or Name.” This form allows you to report a change of address or name change to your board of elections (BOE). Not reporting changes to your BOE could significantly delay your ballot.
- Requesting an absentee ballot by filling out form 11-F: Application for Absent Voter’s Ballot by Confined Voter or a Voter With a Personal Illness, Physical Disability, or Infirmity.”
- Returning your ballot to your county’s board of elections (BOE). Once form 11-F is completed, mail it to your county’s BOE and your ballot will either be mailed or hand delivered to you, depending on where you are detained. If it is mailed, you will need to pay the necessary postage to return it to your BOE. Jails are not permitted to prepay your postage for mail-in ballots.
Can a family member help me get a ballot if I’m in jail?
If you are in jail, a family member can print off a voter registration form and forms 11-F or 11-I from their home or public library, if the library is open to in-person services. After the forms are given to the voter, they should thoroughly read and complete each of the required sections, including: voter name, date of birth, address where they are registered to vote, last four digits of their social security number or driver’s license number, and other information. Only registered voters can use forms 11-F or 11-I.
Once completed, the form should be returned to their county Board of Elections (e.g. the local BOE in the county where their address is registered). The county BOE is required to send the absentee ballot to the jail. Check with your local jail to determine how ballots will be delivered on or before Election Day. For more information, you can also call your BOE by using the County Boards of Elections Directory.
Voting Eligibility Requirements
To vote in Ohio, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be a citizen of the United States;
- Be at least 18 years old on or before the day of the next general election;
- If a voter will be 18 years old on or before the general election, they may vote in the primary election to nominate candidates, but they cannot vote on issues or party central committees until the age of 18;
- Be a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days immediately before the election in which you want to vote;
- Not currently incarcerated in jail or prison, including a local or municipal jail, state or federal prison;
- Not declared incompetent for voting purposes by a probate court;
- Not permanently disenfranchised for violating election laws.
Ohio Voting Rights Online Tool
A new voting rights resource at www.RestoreYourVote.org provides useful information for individuals with criminal convictions and their ability to vote.
The online tool takes the complicated legal framework of each state into an easy to use questionnaire that people with convictions, or agencies serving this population, can use to determine their voting eligibility and the steps they can take to restore
their right to vote.
Represent Justice has released a new toolkit, "FREE OUR VOTE." The toolkit is a guide to voting for and by people impacted by the justice system. This guide will offer historical context for disenfranchisement, explain who may be on your ballot and why they are important, as well as how to find out if you’re eligible to vote in your state and what your rights are once you are registered. The toolkit will go live on the Represent Justice website at http://repjustice.org/vote and is available in a digital and a downloadable/printable version.