The Covid-19 pandemic has changed elections across the country, putting a new focus on the diverse, ever-changing and frequently opaque laws that govern how we go to the polls. It's a muddled landscape of rules about who can vote, where we vote and how we vote. Some of the most confusing laws are for individuals with felony convictions. In more than 30 states, they simply can't vote while still on parole. In others they can, but often only after fulfilling certain requirements. These rules are often unclear and not well-publicized, leading many, including many young people, to wonder whether they are eligible to vote.
After having a considerable difficulty sorting through these laws ourselves this summer, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement decided to learn what younger voters knew about felony voting laws. We found more than half of those aged 18-29 misunderstood convicted-felon laws. About one-third (37 percent) correctly identified whether people with past felony convictions could vote in their state and only 53 percent correctly said individuals who had committed misdemeanors could still vote — something which is true in all states.
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