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Volunteers hope to help former convicts regain the right to vote

Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-23 06:39:32-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the March Primary in Tennessee nears, many citizens will be forced to stay home on election day because of their criminal record.

In the State of Tennessee, if you are convicted of a felony, you automatically lose your voting rights and must apply through the state to get them reinstated.

The Music City Chapter of The Links held a "Restore the Vote" clinic at the Hadley Park Library to help felons who have served their sentences start the application process to get their rights restored.

Elijah Truitt was one of many who attended Saturday. He previously served 13 years in prison for weapon possession and drug charges.

After serving his time, Truitt said he turned his life around. He went to college, got married and started a successful moving business. Still, he feels like there's something missing.

"I believe that my opinion can be important and appreciated, and the best way to be heard is a vote," Truitt said.

As a convicted felon, Truitt lost his right to vote and under Tennessee law, he must apply to get that right restored. It's a right he believes he's entitled to.

"I did that crime, I pleaded guilty to that crime, I served that time," he said.

There are some crimes in which you can never get your voting rights back, including voter fraud, treason, murder or sexual assault crimes.

Misha Maynard with The Links said if you're unsure if you qualify, you should still come to one of their sessions to find out.

In Tennessee, someone authorized from the state has to fill out the form. Maynard says that's why they host the event -the process isn't simple.

"We look into our system to find out where you are at with your fines, if you’re able to be registered or maybe your record expunged, and then you can get your voters rights restored," Maynard said.

Outstanding court fines prevented Truitt from being able to apply for his restoration, but he is hopeful the door isn't shut on his dream to one day return to the ballot box.

If you missed Saturday's clinic, they are doing more clinics March 7, April 4 and May 2 at the Hadley Park Library.