florida and tennessee are two of 11 states which restrict people with felony convictions from voting, even after they served their prison sentence, and no longer are on parole or probation. in both states, voting rights may only be restored through an individual application or petition. recently, the florida and tennessee state advisory committees (sac) each prepared reports on felony disenfranchisement to the u.s. commission on civil rights.
in 2007, former republican governor - and the current democratic candidate for governor - charlie crist revised florida's rules of executive clemency to automatically restore voting rights for most people convicted of non-violent offenses. about 25,000 people were granted clemency in 2009.
"this is four times the number of persons receiving clemency in that year than the average number of clemencies on an annual basis since the mid-1990s," reported the sac.
but in 2011, florida's new governor, republican incumbent rick scott, amended the new rules: forcing the clemency board to review all cases of voter restoration individually. also, the 2011 rules added more paperwork for each case, regardless of the level of offense. at the time of this change, over 95,000 cases were pending review for automatic restoration.
the florida sac asserts if the 2007 clemency rules were brought back, it would allow people who have made full restitution to participate in the democratic process. they also said this would assist in the successful reintegration into society.
tennessee has complex disenfranchisement laws. due to a series of amendments in the last 30 years, restoration of voting rights depends on the year a person was convicted, as well as the type of offense. in 2006, new legislation was passed to streamline the process, allowing most people - upon completing their felony sentence - to apply for a "certificate of restoration," from the board of probation and parole.
the aclu of tennessee noted in the sac report though, burdensome multi-step paperwork and the requirement to pay all court-ordered restitution and child support fees before applying may deter many people from seeking voter restoration.
the tennessee sac recommends the general assembly and the governor learn from states with less restrictive disenfranchisement laws, and remove any unnecessary barriers to restoring voting rights in order to cultivate productive members of society.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.