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HomeIncarcerated & Returning Citizens

Voting Rights for Reentering and Incarcerated Citizens


Reentering and Incarcerated Citizens

If you have a justice history, do you know your voting rights?  (Video right.)

Pennsylvania allows most citizens to vote while incarcerated, and restores this important right, even if convicted of a felony, once confinement is over.  Some people convicted of misdemeanors or felonies think they are not permitted to vote.  Many citizens just don't know the facts. 

The right to vote for all citizens is a key right in our democracy.   With the accurate information on this page, you may learn that your vote counts and is one powerful way to make your voice heard.  

Click on the link, left or find this graphic on the  Explainers and Graphics web page.


Voting Rights with a Criminal History


On This Page:

Eligibility to register and vote with a justice history.
Use your  Voter Registration ID Card  as voter ID.
Tip Sheet- who can and cannot vote with a justice history . 
Department of State Voting Rights Brochure .

Instructions for my Voter Registration application .
Instructions for my Mail-in/Absentee Ballot application .
How to update my voter registration with a new address .
Videos about Incarcerated and Reentering citizens' voting rights.
Find more information and FAQ's .

Find more resources .

More Voting Pages:

Voting Rights for Incarcerated Citizens, Families, and Friends
Basic Qualifications
for All Citizens

STEP 1: There are three qualifications every citizen must meet to be eligible to vote.

  • You must be a citizen of the US for at least 1 month before the next election,
  • 18 years old on or before the next election day, and
  • a PA resident for 30 days.

Eligibility & Your Legal Status
A. You CAN Register and
Vote If...


STEP 2:  If you meet the qualifications to register, but are incarcerated, learn if your own “legal status”
makes it okay for you to register and vote.

You CAN register and vote if you are:

  • a pre-trial detainee incarcerated while awaiting trial on charges of a misdemeanor or a felony
  • incarcerated for or were ever convicted of misdemeanors.
  • released on probation or parole, including in halfway houses*, whether you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • under house arrest while awaiting trial or after conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony. 
  • returned on a parole violation, have been convicted of a “technical”, and it is a misdemeanor but not a new felony charge, or
  • returned on a parole violation,  arrested and charged with a felony but have pre-trial detainee status.            

Eligibility & Your Legal Status 

B. You CANNOT Register
     and Vote If...


You CANNOT register and vote if you are:

  • currently incarcerated for a felony and will still be confined on Election Day, OR
  • in a halfway house*or an alternate correctional facility on pre-release status for conviction of a felony and will still be confined on Election Day.
  • cannot vote for 4 years after being convicted of violations of any provisions of the PA Election Code.

Your legal status (Step 2) stated simply:  you can register and vote unless you are still being held for a felony conviction

on Election Day.        

How to Check Your Voter Status

Active, Inactive, or Not Listed


STEP 3:  VOTER STATUS. “Voter registration status” is Pennsylvania’s record of registered voters.

"Use it or lose it!"  If you had previously registered, but haven't voted in a few years, your registration may be inactive.  We recommend checking your current voter registration status  in case you need to make any updates.

 Once a person’s voter registration has been approved by the State, voter status is listed as “active", and that person can vote. On PA’s voter website the categories are“active”, “inactive”, or “not listed”.

voter status means you are a registered voter and can vote.

  Anyone listed as “inactive” or “not listed” needs to change their voter status to “active” by registering to vote.

There are two ways to change your "inactive" status to "active". 

  • You can register to vote (online or with a downloaded application) on or before the voter registration deadline for the next election (below), or
  • You can go to your polling place on election day and sign a form that changes your status to "active".  You will be given a regular ballot and then may cast your vote. 

PA Department of State BROCHURE: Find Pennsylvania's Department of State 's "Convicted Felon Brochure" here. This publication outlines the official rules of voting for individuals with a justice history.

Short version of voting rights for individuals with a justice history: 

      Stated simply:  You can register and vote unless you are still being held for a felony conviction on Election Day.    Understanding  your basic qualifications, legal status, and voter registration status, is key to knowing if you are eligible to register and vote.   See the PA Department of State Brochure (here) for more.

Tip Sheet for Understanding Eligibility for Incarcerated and Reentering Citizens here .

For help, call 866-OUR-VOTE to talk to live operators. 
For the Allegheny County Election Office call 412-350-4500.

Eligibility for Incarcerated/Reentering

VOTER REGISTRATION - Instructions and Applications Forms

Voter Registration Application including
Mail-in Ballot Application
     and Instructions

Instructions for the PA Voter Registration Application with Mail-in Ballot Application included, here.  See these helpful tips to help complete the application. 

Download the application at PA’s voter website ( here.

Mail-in/Absentee Ballot Application (Alone)
     and Instructions

Voters want to know the difference between a Mail-in and Absentee ballot.

  • The Mail-in and Absentee ballots are the same, but the application process is different.


  • PA state law allows voters to apply for a Mail-in ballot for any reason .  The application for a Mail-in ballot is easier to use than the Absentee ballot application. 

Instructions for the PA Mail-in/Absentee Ballot Application for Incarcerated Citizens here .  See these helpful tips for incarcerated citizens to complete this application.

the Mail-in Ballot application at PA's voter website ( here.

Download the Absentee Ballot application at PA's voter website ( .

Instructions for Mail-in Ballot App for Incarcerated
Instructions for Mail-in Ballot Application- For Incarcerated

How I Know I Am
Registered to Vote

You’ll know you are an “active” voter when you receive your Voter ID card (below).  About 3 weeks
after you register to vote, you’ll get your Voter ID card at the home address you used to register,
that shows: your name, address, your polling place, and your political party.

  • You can use this card as approved ID when you vote in-person.
For help finding approved ID, go to here .
Voter ID Card 2023
Voter ID card Envelope 1

VOTE EARLY with a Mail-in Ballot-- Two Ways to Vote
Two Ways to Vote Early

What does "vote early with a Mail-in ballot" mean?

You can apply for a Mail-in ballot (above) and mail your ballot or return it to your Elections Office before 8pm on Election Day, OR

In Allegheny County, if you are a registered voter, and have not already applied for a Mail-in Ballot, you can go to your Allegheny County Election Office and:

  1.  Apply for a Mail-in Ballot-- Need Driver's License, PennDOT ID, or last four digits of your Social Security number*.
  2. Receive your personal Mail-in Ballot for your district.
  3. Complete your Mail-in Ballot. 
  4. Turn in your Mail-in Ballot, "over-the-counter", and you are done! 

*First-time voters need approved photo or non-photo ID with home address, if using Social Security number to apply for Mail-in ballot.  See "In-Person Voting".


Vote Early with Mail-in

Even More Information

Maintain Your "Active" Status-
     Update Your
     Voter Registration

Once released,

You may want to change or update your voter registration, to keep your “active” status, like with a new address or a name change.

At PA’s voter website,, you’ll need to complete the entire voter registration application again, with your changes at #9 on the form.

Changes Ahead graphic

More Information about Voting and Elections
Accordion Widget
Who can I call for help with Voting and Elections?
Who can I call for help with Voting and Elections?

You can always call 866-OUR-VOTE for help and speak to live operators.

For the Allegheny County Elections Office call 412.350-4500.

For the Pennsylvania Department of State Elections Division call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) for more information.

Accordion Widget
Where can I find reliable voter, election, and candidate information?
Where can I find reliable voter, election, and candidate information?

Once you have been released, you can look for nonpartisan voter, election, and candidate information at:


·      The Allegheny County website at, B-PEP at, and the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh website at .

Complete voter and election information for Pennsylvania at .


·      And, closer to the election, the League of Women Voters website,, will have descriptions of jobs the elected officials would do, candidate photos, links to candidate websites, and candidate answers to questions to compare side-by-side. 

The League of Women Voters Voter Guides are available, both online and printed, a few weeks before each election to help citizens have the local candidate information they need. The Voter Guide is also printed in the New Pittsburgh Courier.


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Where can I find help getting ID?
Where can I find help getting ID?

· can help individuals with the costs of finding approved ID that shows your name and address in PA, including help with transporation costs.

Frequently Asked Questions
Accordion Widget
Can I use a different address for my voter registration and where I want my Mail-in Ballot to be delivered?
Can I use a different address for my voter registration and where I want my Mail-in Ballot to be delivered?


#5 is “Your Address” on the application—it asks what address you will use to register to vote. You must have proof of a home address in Pennsylvania to register and cannot use the jail address. However, there is a way to register to vote even if you were unhoused.

·      If you registered to vote sometime before confinement or have never registered to vote, use your last known address, or

·      If a new residence was established while you were confined, use that new address. 

# 13 on the application asks if you will use a different address to receive your Mail-in ballot.

You can use the address of the jail or a halfway house to receive your Mail-in ballot, instead of your home address.

However, if you use your home address, believing you will be released, make sure to tell your home contact that the Mail-in ballot will be coming in the mail. 

Accordion Widget
What if I am now released, but I applied for a Mail-in Ballot while incarcerated?
What if I am now released, but I applied for a Mail-in Ballot while incarcerated?

If you have been or are going to be released, you will need to decide if a Mail-in ballot is still your best option or whether you will want to or will be able to vote in-person on election day.


Mail-in BALLOTS are sent to voters who’ve applied for them 50 days before the election.


1.    If you will still be confined on Election Day--  You will complete your Mail-in ballot in the jail, and jail staff will return all completed Mail-in ballots to the Election Office well before the deadline—the end of voting on Election Day at 8pm.


2. If you used your home address to receive the Mail-in ballot you can still vote by mail.  


 Once released, you can complete and return your OWN Mail-in BALLOT (if it was sent to your home address).

·      You must follow the instructions, use the secrecy envelope, and sign and date the return envelope.

·      You will need a stamp.

·      Mail-in ballots must be received by the Elections Office by 8pm on Election Day, and postmarks do not count! 

·      Remember, you may return only your own Mail-in ballot to the Elections Office. 

See more at our Mail-in Voting web page here.

Accordion Widget
What if I have been released and want to vote in-person, but received a Mail-in Ballot ?
What if I have been released and want to vote in-person, but received a Mail-in Ballot ?

What if you’ve been released before Election Day, you have received your Mail-in ballot at your home address, but you changed your mind and want to vote in-person?

·      To vote in-person with a regular ballot, you must take ALL the Mail-in ballot materials you have received to your polling place on Election Day. The election official will show you what to do. 

  • Once this process is complete, you will be able vote with a regular ballot.
  • If there are any difficulties with being eligible to vote at your polling place, you can always ask for and vote with a provisional ballot. Within 7 days after Election Day, if you are confirmed by election officials as an "active" voter, your ballot will be counted.

Accordion Widget
What if I am released and have not applied for a Mail-in Ballot. Can I vote in-person?
What if I am released and have not applied for a Mail-in Ballot. Can I vote in-person?

What if you have been released and you did not apply for a Mail-in ballot for this election?  You can choose to vote in-person at your polling place. 

·      If it is your first-time voting or the first-time in a new polling place you must have an approved photo or non-photo ID. has this list.

See more at our Voter Registration web page here and at

Richard Garland Talks to Incarcerated Citizens

Are you a citizen who has never voted or is not sure you are eligible to vote. 
We have information for you in this 2022 LWVPGH video n
arrated by Mr. Richard Garland.

Slide Deck available on Video page. 

Incarcerated Citizens

Ms. Tene Croom Talks to Reentering Citizens

Do you know your voting rights if you have a criminal history?  Did you know most Pennsylvania citizens are eligible to vote? 

Learn who can and cannot vote with this 2022 LWVPGH video n
arrated by Ms. Tene Croom.

Slide Deck available on Video page. 

Reentering and Incarcerated Citizens

     Learn more with these resources: 

Allegheny County Inmate Reentry Program - See the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative

Allegheny County Resource Guide - ACAR (Allegheny County Anchored Reentry Coalition) 

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections - a nonpartisan organization that helps citizens find approved ID so they can vote.  Approved photo or non-photo ID is required in Pennsylvania for first-time voters or those voting the first time in a new polling place. also can help with transportation and other costs of getting ID.

West End P.O.W.E.R.a community organization committed to strengthening communities through activism, advocacy, education, equity, and promoting unity.