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Regaining the right to vote

Those in Memphis who have completed the terms of a criminal conviction no doubt look forward to moving past their legal troubles and getting on with their lives. For many, part of moving on may include becoming more involved in their local communities. A major component of community engagement is being able to vote for new laws and measures. Yet one consequence that those who have been convicted of felony offenses are forced to deal with (even after the completion of their sentences) is the forfeiture of the right to vote. Indeed, according to The Sentencing Project, 6.1 million Americans are unable to vote due to prior felony convictions. 

The question then becomes can one who has been convicted of a felony in Tennessee regain their voting rights? Per the Office of the Tennessee Secretary of State, those convicting before May 18, 1981 retain the eligibility to vote (the only exception would be people convicted of certain violent crimes before January 15, 1973). Current voting rights restrictions became effective after the May 1981 date.

Today, one can only have their voting rights restored if their convictions have been expunged or if they are eligible to complete the state’s process to have their voting rights restored (the form for this process cannot be completed by the one seeking rights restoration, but rather one officially authorized to provide information regarding their criminal sentence and its completion). There are, however, certain offenses for which one cannot have the right to vote be restored. These include voter fraud, treason, the bribery of a public official, rape, or any type of sexual offense committed against a minor. 

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