First-time Felony? You May Be Able to Vote Now in Arizona

Timothy Hintze offered advice on automatic voting rights restoration.
Timothy Hintze offered advice on automatic voting rights restoration.
Getting your rights restored after a felony conviction in Arizona can be a long road, but if you've only been convicted of one felony, your right to vote might have returned without you ever realizing it.

"The truth is, as long as you completed everything — you got your absolute discharge — you have those rights back. You can vote," said local attorney Timothy Hintze.

Hintze outlined the requirements to qualify for the restoration in webinar hosted by the American Friends Service Committee - Arizona, a Quaker prisoner advocacy organization. Read on to learn if you qualify or scroll to the bottom to watch the video yourself.

First, it's important to know whether your rights were removed in the first place, Hintze said. Voting rights are only revoked if you're actually convicted of a felony. If you were charged with a felony but pled to a lower crime, your rights weren't revoked. Even if you were jailed before your case settled, or are currently jailed, you retain your voting rights unless you receive a felony conviction.

"You are innocent unless proven guilty," Hintze said.

Restoring rights after a felony conviction is a lengthy process that involves petitioning the court and waiting up to 120 days to get a decision. If you're trying to register for this election, you don't have time for that. The registration deadline is Monday, October 5.

"One hundred-twenty days — we're beyond that," Hintze said.

However, if you have only been convicted of one felony and have completed all your court-ordered requirements, you might already have had your rights restored automatically. Under Arizona law, if you have completed every part of your sentence — you're off probation and have paid all restitution — your right to vote will be automatically restored. Even if you were charged with multiple felonies, as long as you were only convicted of one of them, the automatic restoration applies.

All that's left then is to register to vote. You can do that online here.

Before you do that, it's important to make sure you do qualify. The voter registration will not check if you're eligible and if you vote improperly, it's a felony.

"You want to be sure," Hintze said.

One way you can check the disposition of your cases is by using the Arizona Supreme Court's case search. If your cases aren't online, you can call the court clerk to get the disposition of your case or the relevant records. If you have any questions, Hintze and his colleague Steven Scharboneau say you can give them a call at 480-248-7666 and they'll help you check on your status, for no charge.

Even if you don't qualify for the automatic restoration, it's worth looking into starting the process of applying to have your rights restored for the next election. And you can still make a difference through volunteering to phone bank and canvas in support of political efforts.

"You can pull in more than just your own vote," Scharboneau said.