Voting Rights in Colorado
Many people in Colorado believe that once you have a criminal record you can never vote. This is not true!
So who is eligible to vote in Colorado?
- People with a criminal conviction who have served their sentence, including parole if required
- Pretrial detainees in jail
- People currently on probation for either a misdemeanor or felony
- People currently in jail serving a misdemeanor sentence only
For more information about voting rights, click on the links to our phamplets.
CAN I VOTE? English (244k PDF) Spanish (268k PDF)
CAN I VOTE FROM JAIL? English (152k PDF) Spanish (152k PDF)
CCJRC strongly encourages people with criminal records to register to vote as soon as they are eligible. Your voice and vote matter! If you believe you are eligible to vote and are told by an election official that you are not eligible, please contact CCJRC for help.
The following Frequently Asked Questions section has more information.
Felon Voting FAQ
I have a criminal conviction in my past. Do I have the right to vote if I have served my sentence and successfully completed parole?
Yes. In Colorado, you have the right to vote after you've served your sentence, including parole. The day you're released from parole supervision is the day you become eligible to vote. This right is automatically restored.
Do I have the right to vote if I am presently incarcerated for a felony or if I am on parole?
No, you may not register to vote or cast a vote if you are incarcerated for a felony. You are also ineligible to register to vote or vote while serving your sentence of parole.
Will I get an official letter telling me when I'm eligible to vote?
No. No one will tell you when you're eligible to vote.
Do I have to prove I have served my sentence and parole?
When you sign the Voter Registration Application, you are signing an oath that means you understand you are eligible. This is called a self-affirmation. There is a warning above the self-affirmation stating, "It is a crime to swear or affirm falsely as to your qualifications to register to vote." It is not a crime to register to vote if you have completed both your sentence and parole. However, if your name still appears on the internal database as an incarcerated person, the voting official may have the discretion to ask for documentation.
What if I was convicted for a crime in another state?
The laws about disenfranchisement (denial of the right to vote) vary from state to state. That's one of the reasons why the issue is so confusing. However, your right to vote is determined by the state in which you live. If you are a resident of Colorado and if you have completed parole, you can vote.
If I was convicted of a federal crime, do I have the right to vote in a federal election?
It does not matter if you were convicted in a state or federal court. Once you are eligible to vote in Colorado, you are eligible to vote in both state and federal elections.
Do I have to pay off all my restitution before I can vote?
No. Payment of restitution is not a condition of voting eligibility.
Do I have the right to vote if I am on probation?
Yes. People on probation may register to vote and cast their vote in any election. Probation and parole are terms frequently confused by the general public, so sometimes people on probation are told they can not vote. This is not true. It is legal to vote while under a sentence of probation. It is not legal to vote while under a sentence of parole.
I was registered to vote before I was incarcerated. Do I need to register again?
Yes. If you were registered to vote prior to your incarceration, there is a good chance that your name was removed from the Secretary of State's list of registered voters. You must re-register to vote.
Do I have the right to vote if I am in jail serving a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction?
Yes. An individual in jail serving a misdemeanor sentence has the right to register to vote and vote in any election. You will need to register to vote before the deadline and request an absentee ballot.
Do I have the right to vote if I am in jail awaiting trial?
Yes. Pretrial detainees are eligible to vote. The statute says, "a confined prisoner who is awaiting trial but has not been tried shall be certified by the institutional administrator and shall be permitted to register to vote by mail registration pursuant to part 5 of this article." This describes a pretrial detainee.
Do I have the right to vote if I am on bond and the criminal case is pending?
Yes. You are eligible to vote if you are on bond as long as you are not convicted and serving a sentence in jail or prison for a felony at the time of the election.
What is the charge if someone illegally registers to vote and votes in an election?
As of July 2006, it is a class five felony charge to register to vote or vote in an election for which a person is not legally eligible. (Colorado Revised Statute § 1-13-704.5)
Colorado Voting Law
Colorado Revised Statute §1-2-103(4)
The law about voting rights is in Colorado Revised Statute §1-2-103(4).
No person while serving a sentence of detention or confinement in a correctional facility, jail, or other location for a felony conviction or while serving a sentence of parole shall be eligible to register to vote or to vote in any election; however, a confined person who is awaiting trial but has not been tried shall be certified by the institutional administrator and shall be permitted to register to vote by mail registration pursuant to part 5 of this article.
To disenfranchise is to deny someone the right to vote in an election. Some states disenfranchise people with a felony conviction for life, some return the right later on, and a few let people vote while they are incarcerated. It's no wonder that everyone is a little confused and that people call disenfranchisement laws a state-by-state crazy quilt.
Earl Warren, the fourteenth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, once wrote, "To the extent that a citizen's right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen." We agree. If you would like to know more about disenfranchisement, click on the link to Organizations of Interest.
Colorado Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing how elections are conducted in Colorado, but in almost every county in Colorado, the county's Office of the Clerk and Recorder oversees the actual election. You need to register to vote with the Clerk and Recorder in the county where you live.
You can find out more about elections at the Secretary of State's website: http://www.sos.state.co.us
Click here for Frequently Asked Questions on the Secretary of State's website: http://www.elections.colorado.gov/DDefault.aspx?tid=87
Click here for information about convictions and voting on the Secretary of State's website: http://www.elections.colorado.gov/DDefault.aspx?tid=845
Organizations of Interest
Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action
According to their website, Demos is a "non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization committed to building an America that achieves its highest democratic ideals."
- For more information about voting rights and disfranchisement, go to www.demos.org. Click on Democracy Program.
Sentencing Project: Research and Advocacy for Reform
The Sentencing Project works to reform sentencing law and practice and promotes alternatives to incarceration in order to promote a fair and effective criminal justice system. They also work on felony disenfranchisement.
- The Right to Vote campaign was a collaboration between the Sentencing Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
- For more information about disenfranchisement, go to www.sentencingproject.org. Click on Felony Disenfranchisement.
If you would like to read more about the history of disfranchisement, we recommend the following books:
Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy
Jeff Manza and Chrisopher Uggen
Oxford University Press, Inc., 2006
The Disenfranchisement of Ex-Felons
Elizabeth A. Hull
Temple University Press, 2006
The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States
Basic Books (Perseus Books Group), 2000