TITLE 17
Elections

CHAPTER 17-9.2
Rhode Island Restoration of Voting Rights Act

SECTION 17-9.2-3


   § 17-9.2-3  Restoration of voting rights. – (a) A person who has lost the right of suffrage under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Rhode Island because of such person's incarceration upon a felony conviction shall be restored the right to vote when that person is discharged from incarceration.

   (b) Before accepting a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a felony, and before imposing a felony sentence after trial, the court shall notify the defendant that conviction will result in loss of the right to vote only if and for as long as the person is incarcerated and that voting rights are restored upon discharge.

   (c) The department of corrections shall act as a voter registration agency in accordance with § 17-9.1-8. In this capacity, and as part of the release process leading to a person's discharge from a correctional facility, the department of corrections shall notify that person in writing that voting rights will be restored, provide that person with a voter registration form and a declination form, and offer that person assistance in filling out the appropriate form. Unless the registrant refuses to permit it to do so, the department of corrections shall transmit the completed voter registration form to the state board or local board where the registrant resides.

   (d) The department of corrections shall, on or before the 15th day of each month, transmit to the secretary of state two (2) lists. The first shall contain the following information about persons convicted of a felony who, during the preceding period, have become ineligible to vote because of their incarceration; the second shall contain the following information about persons convicted of a felony who, during the preceding period, have become eligible to vote because of their discharge from incarceration:

   (1) name;

   (2) date of birth;

   (3) date of entry of judgment of conviction;

   (4) description of offense;

   (5) sentence.

   (e) The secretary of state shall ensure that the statewide central voter registration is purged of the names of persons who are ineligible to vote because of their incarceration upon a felony conviction. The secretary of state shall likewise ensure that the names of persons who are eligible and registered to vote following their discharge from incarceration are added to the statewide central voter register in the same manner as all other names are added to that register.

   (f) The secretary of state shall ensure that persons who have become eligible to vote because of their discharge from incarceration face no continued barriers to registration or voting resulting from their felony convictions.

   (g) The secretary of state shall develop and implement a program to educate attorneys, judges, election officials, corrections officials, and members of the public about the requirements of this section, ensuring that:

   (1) Judges are informed of their obligation to notify criminal defendants of the potential loss and restoration of their voting rights in accordance with subsection (b) hereof.

   (2) The department of corrections is prepared to assist people with registration to vote in anticipation of their discharge from incarceration, including by forwarding completed voter registration forms to the state board or local board where the registrant resides.

   (3) The language on voter registration forms makes clear that people who have been disqualified from voting because of felony convictions regain the right to vote when they are discharged from incarceration.

   (4) The state department of corrections is prepared to transmit to the secretary of state the information specified in subsection (d) hereof.

   (5) Probation and parole officers are informed of the change in the law and are prepared to notify probationers and parolees that their right to vote is restored.

   (6) Accurate and complete information about the voting rights of people who have been charged with or convicted of crimes, whether disfranchising or not, is made available through a single publication to government officials and the public.

   (h) Voting rights shall be restored to all Rhode Island residents who have been discharged from incarceration or who were never incarcerated following felony convictions, whether they were discharged or sentenced before or after the effective date of this section.

History of Section.
(P.L. 2006, ch. 366, § 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 476, § 1.)