Legislators in Tennessee will soon be considering new laws that will help felons who have paid their debt to society have their voting rights restored, according to a recent story by AP News. Two organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity, often with different viewpoints, are supporting the legislation. The legislation complements new federal criminal justice legislation.
According to Think Tennessee, a non-profit organization, “only about 11,600 [convicts] have gotten their voting rights restored between 1990 and 2015.”
The bill has two main features
The first would remove the state requirement that anyone who was formerly incarcerated must be current on their child support obligations, restitution requirements, and payment of court fines. Many people with little income have been unable to catch up on their child support obligations while being in jail. Even with time, they are often unlikely to pay the arrearages and restitution any time soon. The proposed bills would not end the requirement to pay child support debt and court obligations; it would just untie the debt to the right to vote.
The second feature is that the proposed legislation would make it much easier for former felons to get their voting rights restored. The aim of the legislation is to reduce a lot of the red tape and bureaucratic process.
One former convicted felon was at the forefront of the public announcement of the bill. Matthew Charles was previously sentenced to 35 years for selling crack cocaine. When a judge ruled that the sentence was unfair, Charles’ sentence was reduced. He was released from prison in January 2010. Charles said of the new voting rights bill“I feel that restoring a person’s voting rights is allowing them to see not only that they’ve received a second chance but society’s acceptance of that as well.”
Exclusions may apply
The bill will not restore voting rights to everyone. The following types of felony and misdemeanor convictions will not be eligible for voting rights restoration:
- Voter fraud
- Sexual offenses where a minor is involved
- Public official misconduct
- Government interference felonies
- Some bribery offenses
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our lawyers have the experience and resources to help defendants get justice. We have restored the rights of our clients to help them truly rebuild their lives. We work aggressively to obtain dismissals, have evidence suppressed, negotiate fair plea agreements, and present your case to a jury of your peers. For help with any criminal charge, state or federals, please phone us at (865) 428-8780 or make an appointment by using our contact form to make an appointment. We represent the accused in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.