By: Andrew Heiser
Brian Harrington spent thirteen years in prison after being charged with murder at the age of sixteen. During that time, he was able to build skills he hoped to use outside of prison, work on self-improvement, and raise awareness about the shortcomings of the criminal justice system. There was, however, one thing he could not do: vote.
In Illinois, as in almost every state, incarcerated felons lose their right to vote while they are incarcerated (though unlike some states, in Illinois the right to vote is restored immediately upon release). Only two states, Maine and Vermont, and the District of Columbia currently allow all people in prison to vote during their incarceration. Alabama, Alaska, and Mississippi also allow some prisoners to vote if they were not convicted of certain crimes—though which crimes specifically cause those with felony convictions to lose the right to vote can seem arbitrary, and many are not made aware of the distinction.