(FixThisNation.com) – In Tennessee, a recent shift in policy has significantly impacted the ability of individuals with felony convictions to regain their voting rights, affecting nearly half a million people, as reported by Newsweek.
A decision made by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2023 has led to a new interpretation of the law. Now, felons who wish to restore their voting rights are required to either receive a pardon or have all their citizenship rights reinstated, including the right to bear arms.
The prior procedure allowed those with felony convictions to regain their voting rights by clearing any outstanding debts and receiving a “certificate of restoration.” However, this new interpretation changes the process considerably.
Blair Bowie, who leads the Campaign Legal Center’s Restore Your Vote initiative, expressed strong criticism of how Tennessee is handling this issue. Speaking to The Associated Press, Bowie highlighted the legislative intent to create accessible pathways for reinstating voting rights. Yet, Bowie pointed out, the state’s Elections Division and the attorney general’s office seem to be contorting the law to prevent around 475,000 Tennesseans, including more than 20% of the Black voting-age population with past felony convictions, from voting.
This policy shift has led to a sharp decrease in the number of felons who have been able to regain their voting rights. Since the implementation of this change, only one out of sixty applicants has successfully had their voting rights restored.
Mark Goins, the Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, explained the state’s stance by stating that committing a felony in Tennessee results in the forfeiture of the right to vote in future elections. He pointed out that the state Legislature has provided a pathway for individuals who have committed a felony and wish to regain the right to vote.
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