Monday, August 14, 2006

simple, huh? memphis 8/15

i'm loving old montreal and the sociology meetings, but nearing saturation. on my way home (sort of), i'll be giving a talk in memphis at a felon voting panel hosted by the american civil liberties union. barring travel delays, i'll be at the cecil humphreys school of law, university of memphis, 3715 central avenue (Rooms 248, 250 and 252) at 6:30.

tennessee has had one of the twistiest felon voting laws for former felons, with one's rights dependent on the date of conviction, the type of conviction, the financial obligations owed to the state or victims, and other criteria. fortunately, attorney erika wood of the brennan center for justice and several local experts will handle the tough legal questions. my job will be to give the big picture overview.

the flyer notes that tennessee has dramatically simplified its procedures:

Public Chapter 860, a new law, simplifies the process for restoring voting rights to persons with past felony convictions who have completed their sentences. What was the country’s most confusing system, with six different procedures for restoration, has been streamlined into a single restoration process.

it still seems pretty complicated relative to other states, though. in minnesota, a former felon simply has to show up at the polls with some identification. here's another flyer that breaks down the new simplified procedure:

Just follow these easy steps:
1) Complete your sentence, including probation and parole
2) Pay court-ordered restitution, if any
3) Be current on all court-ordered child support obligations
4) Complete a Voter Registration form and submit it to the local Election Commission office
5) Obtain a Certificate of Restoration form from the local County Election office and have it completed by:
• An agent of the pardoning authority (probation or parole officer), or
• An agent or officer of the supervising or incarcerating authority (prison or jail), or
• An agent of the circuit/criminal court (clerk).
6) Submit the completed Certificate of Restoration to the local Election Commission office. If your application is approved, you will receive a Voters Registration card. If it is denied, you will receive a letter explaining why and explaining the steps you need to take to restore your right to vote. (Contact your local Election Commission Office if you have not received your registration card or a letter within a week.)
NOTE: The Voters Registration and the Certificate of Restoration forms can be found at your local Election Commission Office or at the Tennessee Election Commission website (

Your right to vote can be restored when:
• Your sentence is complete, including probation and parole, or when you are no longer under the authority of the penal institution
• You have paid any applicable court-ordered restitution
• You are current on applicable child support payments
Most persons with felony convictions can have their right to vote restored. In some cases, convictions for certain crimes will prevent you from having your right to vote restored. These include:
• First-degree murder, aggravated rape, treason, and voter fraud (If convicted between July 1, 1986 and June 30, 1996)
• Murder, rape, treason, and voter fraud (If convicted between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 2006)
• Murder, rape, treason, voter fraud, any violent sexual offense designated as a felony where the victim of the offense was a minor, and offenses against the administration of government (official misconduct) by elected or appointed officials (If convicted on or after July 1, 2006)

this procedure surely makes it easier for tennessee ex-felons to regain the vote. that said, i'm guessing that many will be deterred by the financial hurdles and administrative requirements. in most states, one's rights are automatically restored after completion of sentence.

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