JLUSA leaders in Tennessee publish op-ed on felony disenfranchisement and voting rights restoration
October 4, 2023
“The echoes of grieving families and fearful voices demanding gun reform should be etched in your memory after the Tennessee General Assembly’s special session on public safety. Countless lives have been lost to gun violence and reform is urgent. However, our legislators have remained complacent, failing to take measures to address this crisis.
“The ‘Vote them out’ chants from the galleys and halls of the legislature were loud, as they should have been. However, in order to do that, we must first grapple with the injustice of voter suppression, particularly felony disenfranchisement.
Our state is No. 1 in the country for felony disenfranchisement of Black and Latinx voters
“Tennessee denies over 471,000 individuals, who are our family, friends and neighbors, their right to vote because of a felony conviction on their record. Our state is No. 1 in the country for felony disenfranchisement of Black and Latinx voters, and No. 2 for felony disenfranchisement overall in the entire country. Under guidance issued by Secretary of State Tre Hargett that made an already convoluted voting rights restoration process even worse, felony disenfranchisement continues to be an affront to our democratic values.
“Fortunately, there are tangible steps that can be taken to rectify this injustice and ensure our democracy includes everyone and truly represents the will of the people. Next session, when legislation is introduced to restore voting rights, Tennesseans should contact their lawmakers and ask them to support it. Additionally, Gov. Bill Lee has the power to restore voting rights by using his executive power, and he should be called upon very loudly to do so.
“Many states across the country have enacted voting rights restoration laws. Tennessee should follow suit and make bold moves that address felony disenfranchisement.”