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Report: More than 470,000 Tennesseans Can’t Vote Due to Felony Convictions

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Friday, November 4, 2022   

In Tennessee, almost a half-million people won't be able to vote in the midterm elections because of a past felony conviction.

According to research by The Sentencing Project, 470,000 Tenneseans are among the 4.6 million Americans with felony convictions who are denied voting rights. Nicole D. Porter, senior director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project, said that's one in every 50 adults - and in Tennessee, the rate is much higher.

"Tennessee has one of the highest disenfranchising populations in the country," she said. "One of every 13 adults in Tennessee is disenfranchised."

In Tennessee, Porter said, people's voting rights can be restored, but only after they complete their sentence - including any prison term, probation and parole - and pay off any related fines, fees, restitution and child support.

Porter said the report shows that across the country, one in 19 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised. That's a rate three-and-a-half times greater than among non-African Americans. She adds that in Tennessee, it's an even higher rate for people of color who are disenfranchised because of felony convictions.

Porter said "21.02% of the disenfranchised population in Tennessee is African American. That's one out of 10 African American adults."

She said The Sentencing Project wants Tennessee to consider ending its felony disenfranchisement policies and allow people - even still in prison - regardless of their crime or conviction, to vote. Critics of that idea say people who commit serious crimes should lose their voting rights.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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