Report: Felon Voter Laws Keep 1 of 5 TN African Americans From Voting

Posted at 10:14 PM, Nov 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-01 23:25:35-04

As election night inches closer, certain groups across middle Tennessee have voiced concerns over state voter laws that they said are nothing more than a modern-day poll tax.

In Tennessee, people convicted of felonies lose their right to vote while they're in jail, but the NAACP Nashville Branch and the ACLU of Tennessee say getting that right back after a criminal has served their time is easier said than done.

According to The Sentencing Project, more than 1 in 5 African Americans in Tennessee can't vote because of felony convictions.

The ACLU of Tennessee said a big part of the problem stems from a state law that bans former felons from voting until they pay all their past due child support -- bills that can mount to tens of thousands of dollars while a criminal is behind bars.

The group said Tennessee is the only state in the country with such a law.

“There is no way -- recognizing how difficult it is to get an apartment, to get a job, to be able to have the money to have court fines and fees – to then be able to pay child support,” said Hedy Weinberg with ACLU of Tennessee.

There are certain crimes in Tennessee that bar a convict from voting for life, including murder, aggravated rape and voter fraud.