The news that former state senator and former federal inmate Ernie Newton is back in electoral politics was met by many with surprise that Newton was even legally eligible to vote, much less run for office. So how is he back on the ballot?
While convicted felons in every state but Maine and Vermont lose the right to vote while they are behind bars, most states restore that right – and with it, the right to run for office – either after incarceration or after the completion of parole or probation. Permanent disenfranchisement for at least some felonies remains the law in 11 states, according to Project Vote. (Click here for a state-by-state rundown of felon voting rights.)
Connecticut is in the middle of the pack, allowing released felons to vote while on probation, but not while on parole — with one important exception: Those convicted of election-related felonies must also complete probation before they can vote again.
Newton served four years in prison for “accepting a $5,000 bribe, evading taxes and pilfering campaign contributions to pay for car repairs, personal cellphone calls and other expenses,” my colleague Christopher Keating writes in a story reporting that Newton won the Democratic endorsement for his old seat.
Newton completed his sentence in August 2010. Two months later, after making the last payment on his $13,862 restitution order, former Inmate No. 16316-014 raised his right hand at Bridgeport City Hall, took an oath, and got back on the voting list.