Can a Felon Vote in Tennessee?

Tennessee is an American state found in the southeastern region of the country. It is the 16th most populous and 36th largest out of the 50 states of America. Its capital is Nashville but its largest city is Memphis with a total population of 655, 770. Tennessee is most notable for being the home of country music. Aside from the, Elvis’ Graceland is also be found in this state.

As of November 2016, Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) houses 29,603 inmates in total. The Tennessee Department of Correction operates and manages 10 adult prisons. It also works together with a private prison management company to operate one prison. It also has contracts with several counties to operate three other prisons. Aside from the 29, 603 inmates mentioned, it also supervises the probation, parole or community corrections of 79,000 other offenders.

In Tennessee, felon voting rules are strict. As a general rule, individuals are not allowed to vote once convicted of any crime. But there are certain conditions under which a felon may be allowed to vote again. Felon disenfranchisement is a rising problem in the United States. The United States of America disenfranchises the most number of people. Felon-voting advocates assert that disenfranchisement is counter-productive to the main goal of the correctional system – the gradual reintegration of these felons into the society.

Can felons vote in Tennessee?

As stated in Article 4 of the Tennessee Constitution, the Tennessee legislature has the right to deny individuals who are imprisoned for “infamous” crimes to vote.

Other than the revocation of the right of suffrage, felons are also not allowed to sit as a jury, bear arms and hold public office.

As aforementioned, as a general rule, individuals are not allowed to vote once convicted of any crime. But there are procedures and conditions under which felons may again be eligible for restoration of the right of suffrage.

The following are the conditions which may make a felon eligible to vote again:

  • Pardon
  • Completion of the maximum sentence imposed for the crime
  • Court order restitution paid
  • Completion of the supervision or incarceration period by the board of paroles

How can felons restore their voting rights in Tennessee?

The aforesaid conditions must be complied with before a felon may again be made eligible to vote. Felon voting rights can be restored either by an order issued by the court or a certificate of restoration.

There are two ways to restore the voting rights in Tennessee:

  1. The felon must obtain a court order proving that his or her rights have been restored by the court. This court order must be presented to the office of the county election commission in which he resides.
  2. Another way is to obtain a certificate of restoration. This certificate is obtained from the county election commission officer. This certification must be signed by the agent or officer of the supervising or incarcerating authority, the pardoning authority and an agent of the circuit/criminal court clerk.

Tennessee is one of the states in America which allows former felons to vote again after incarceration. Felon voting rights advocates look upon such as they believe that this is one step to reintegrating the felons back into the community.


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