When convicted of a felony, citizens lose their right to vote. For those attempting to rebuild their life after a criminal conviction, the loss of voting rights is an ongoing punishment after the debt to society had been repaid.
The year of the conviction matters
In the last three decades, the State of Tennessee has changed the rules for restoration of voting rights several times. Currently, the Tennessee Constitution denies voting rights to persons who were convicted of “infamous” crimes. Tennessee legislature considers felonies “infamous” crimes. For those wishing to restore their voting rights, the process varies depending on the year of the conviction.
Convictions prior to January 15, 1973
Individuals must present proof of voting eligibility to the county collection commission in the county where they reside. The county administrator will send the proof to the Coordinator of Elections. Once the proof has been verified, the person may register to vote. The individual must prove the crime was not “infamous”, the conviction was reversed in an appeal or that they received a pardon.
Convictions from January 15, 1973 – May 17, 1981
During this period there were no crimes that forfeited the right to vote. An individual may register to vote regardless of the nature of the conviction.
Convictions after May 18, 1981
Individuals convicted of a felony during this time frame are eligible to have their voting rights restored if they received a pardon or a final release from an incarceration supervisory broad. The individual must repay any court ordered restitution and court costs. Individuals with child support obligations must be current on payments. To restore their voting rights, the person must obtain a court order to restore their rights or have a Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights completed by a pardoning authority.
There are exceptions when a person cannot have their voting rights restored. Persons convicted of murder, rape, treason or voter fraud between 1986 and present day are ineligible to have their voting rights restored. Since July 1, 2006, a person convicted of any of the above crimes or crimes containing the same elements designated as a felony in a federal court or another state court are also ineligible.