changes to democracy

Should any individuals be able to vote while incarcerated?

Yes, all

Yes, all incarcerated people

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“When we look at the shameful history of why our country has banned incarcerated people from voting, we must understand that voter suppression and the efforts to rob citizens of voting rights is part of the legacy of slavery and racist attitudes post-Jim Crow,” a Sanders campaign spokesperson told The Post. Sanders “believes if you've committed a crime and you're in jail, you're paying a price. But you're still a member of American society, which means voting is still your right.” When asked about voting rights for previously incarcerated people, Sanders said, "if people have paid their debt to society, they deserve the right to vote," Sanders told The Post. He co-sponsored the Voter Empowerment Act of 2019 which guarantees formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Yes, some

Yes, some incarcerated people

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

“Yes. [Yang] supports restoring voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals and currently incarcerated individuals who haven’t prevented someone else from losing their ability to vote,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. Yang previously told The Post, “I believe in restoring federal voting rights to all formerly incarcerated people. They served their time, and they are citizens; they should be able to vote."

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “Do I think nonviolent drug offenders who are over-incarcerated should be able to vote in prison? Those folks, yes,” Booker told the Huffington Post.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. “There's no question that stripping people of voting rights when they're incarcerated has been weaponized over time, especially in the South, and especially for African Americans,” Castro said at a voting rights forum. “Where I would draw that line is, I would say, with the people who are incarcerated having the opportunity to still vote. They're counted in the census, they're counted for political representation purposes. The one exception [is] for people who are violent felons. When you commit certain types of violent crime, I believe that you lose all of those things.” Castro supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, he told The Post.

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Julian Castro
Castro

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. “I would think especially for non-violent offenders that we rethink removing the right to vote and allow everyone, or as many as possible, to participate in our democracy," O'Rourke said at a voting rights forum in Texas. "For violent criminals, it's much harder for me to reach that conclusion.” He supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, he told The Post.

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Once they are released

After they are released

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

“I support restoring voting rights to the millions of Americans who have already served their time and immediately upon release for people currently in prison,” Bennet told The Post. He co-sponsored the Senate's version of the For the People Act, which would restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, among other reforms.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“My administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences,” Biden told The Post.

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Joe Biden
Biden

Mike Bloomberg

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, he told The Post.

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Pete Buttigieg

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

“No. [Buttigieg] will restore the right to vote for all formerly incarcerated people immediately upon release from confinement as part of the 21st Century Voting Rights Act,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “This would not be contingent on any payment of fines, fees, or the completion of supervised release.” A spokesperson previously told The Post that Buttigieg “believes that as soon as someone is released, without any red tape, without any costs, they should be able to vote.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“I do not support allowing people who are currently serving felony prison sentences to vote, but voting rights should be restored automatically to every person convicted of a felony upon their release from prison,” Delaney told The Post.

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John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, she told The Post.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar supports voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, she told The Post.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Deval Patrick

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, a campaign spokesperson told The Post. His democracy agenda pledged to “work with states and Congress to restore voting rights to citizens who have served out their sentence and returned to society, and keep that engagement up to ensure that restoration actually happens, and happens quickly.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick
Patrick

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, but not for individuals while incarcerated, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“I’m open to this conversation,” Warren told The Post. “But I think we should start by restoring the right to vote for everyone who is formerly incarcerated. Once someone pays their debt to society, they’re expected to pay taxes, expected to abide by the law, they’re expected to support themselves and their families, I think that means they’ve got a right to vote.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “Absolutely,” Bullock said when The Post asked about voting for formerly incarcerated people. “In Montana, we’ve led the way by ensuring that voting rights are restored to formerly incarcerated people the second they’re finished serving their time. The rest of the country needs to meet that standard.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. “We have to absolutely change our approach to get people to participate, we’ve got to open up the democratic process and encourage people,” de Blasio told NY1 after launching a registration effort at the Rikers Island prison.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand introduced the Voter Empowerment Act of 2019, which guarantees formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote.

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Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. "I think we should have that conversation," she said about voting rights for incarcerated individuals at a CNN town hall. "Do I think that people who commit murder, people who are terrorists, should be deprived of their rights? Yeah, I do," she said. "I'm a prosecutor, I believe that in terms of, there has to be serious consequence for the most extreme types of crimes." Harris co-sponsored the Voter Empowerment Act of 2019 which guarantees formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. Hickenlooper supports voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, he told The Post.

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John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. Inslee supports voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Jay Inslee
Inslee

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. Moulton co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019, also know as H.R. 1, which would restore voting rights to pepole who have completed felony sentences.

Candidate positions highlighted
Seth Moulton
Moulton

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. Ryan co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019, also know as H.R. 1, which would restore voting rights to pepole who have completed felony sentences.

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. Sestak supports restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Eric Swalwell (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, California

Swalwell is no longer running for president. “I support restoring voting rights to all formerly incarcerated persons,” Swalwell told The Post.

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Eric Swalwell
Swalwell

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “Felons should be allowed to vote after they have served their sentence,” Williamson told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

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ShowHide former candidates

Background Democratic candidates broadly support voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, but only a few support allowing people to vote while incarcerated.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic campaign asking whether it supports various changes to the Senate filibuster, U.S. elections and courts. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.