Felons know that they face the loss of some of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution with that felony conviction. Among these are the right to vote, hold public office of trust or profit, serve on a jury, and own or possess firearms.
This blog post will cover the question of whether felons can run for public office.
- State Requirements to Hold Public Office
- Having Civil Rights Restored
- Having a Plan for Success
- Supporting Felons Running for Public Office
State Requirements to Hold Public Office
The question of whether felons can hold public office depends on the state in question. Some impose restrictions on those with a felony conviction and some don’t.
There is a wide variety of responses from individual states in how they handle this. In some states, felons whose conviction was older than 10 years may hold public office.
Other states maintain that anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude may not serve in an elected position. Moral turpitude includes, lying, deceit, fraudulent receipt of public funds, or breaking financial responsibilities.
Texas specifies that anyone convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes shall be excluded from any elected position.
In Georgia, anyone convicted of a crime of moral turpitude may not hold public office unless their rights have been restored and at least 10 years have passed since the completion of the sentence. Also, they must not have been convicted of a subsequent crime of moral turpitude.
Having Civil Rights Restored
In order to have their civil rights restored, felons must have completed all parts of their sentence, including probation, have no pending criminal charges, and have paid all restitution.
If they meet these criteria, they may seek to regain their rights through the process of clemency.
Remember, clemency will not establish innocence. The record will remain. However, felons’ rights will be restored, allowing them to hold public office.
Interestingly, loss of civil rights affects the ability to hold public office, but it does not impact one’s right to run for office.
There are instances where felons have run for and been elected, but because of the law in the state where they reside, were not allowed to take office.
This qualification does not apply to federal positions, however.
Once someone has qualified for running for a federal office, such as for Congress, they may run but whether they can serve will be a decision for Congress to make.
To run for Congress, one only has to be 25 years old and a citizen for seven years to run for the House and 30 years old and a citizen for at least nine years for the Senate. They must be an inhabitant of the state when elected.
Federal elected positions are different from state offices, mainly because the U.S. Constitution takes a minimalist position, leaving many decisions up to individual states to establish.
Having a Plan for Success
Once felons’ civil rights have been restored, and they decide to run for office, it helps to have a plan to deal with the felony conviction.
It is part of the public record and cannot be hidden. There are stories of success in the Guide to Becoming Employed.
The key is in how it is handled. It shouldn’t be hidden but neither should it be a headline. In the course of telling one’s story, it can be part of the details.
It was a part of their life when they made mistakes. Then they came to a decision to live their lives differently, with public service being an essential part of it.
During a campaign, while the criminal record is there, it is part of the past. It doesn’t have to define felons.
When the issue is raised, it is important to be open and honest but not be defensive or dwell on the mistakes of the past.
They should put it out there for what it is, but once that is accomplished, they should leave it alone and not draw even more attention to it. Let it die out and remain focused on the election.
Supporting Felons Running for Public Office
Families of felons running for office, should encourage their loved one to be honest and direct but to remain focused on their goal of becoming an elected official, ready to serve the public and re-establish trust.
Remind them of their desire to serve the greater good. Don’t let them give up. Stand by their efforts to succeed. All concerned will profit by doing so.
What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to run for public office with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they deal with it? Please tell us in the comments below.