Group helps felons restore their voting rights
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With less than three months until the Memphis municipal elections, one group of people is hitting the streets to make sure as many people as possible are able to cast a ballot.
The group “Restore Your Vote” says Tennessee has some of the most complicated voting restoration laws for convicted felons.
Right now, 421,000 people in Tennessee don’t have voting rights because of a felony conviction. David Wicks is one of them.
“I would like to see my voting rights restored,” Wicks said.
Wicks didn’t know he could restore his voting rights until he met Ashley Caldwell with Restore Your Vote. The Washington D.C. group Campaign Legal Center set up Restore Your Vote in Tennessee after researching different state’s voter restoration laws.
“It's really hard to get their voting rights back once they lost it,” Caldwell said. “It's mainly due to how complicated the laws are not because they don't qualify.”
Caldwell said if you were convicted of a felony after 1981 you lost your voting rights, but can be eligible to restore them after serving your sentence. To restore your voting rights you can either get an expungement or apply for a certificate of restoration.
To do that you can't have any outstanding court costs, restitution and, what advocates say is sometimes someone's biggest barrier, back child support.
“It’s difficult for people, especially those who are indigent, to be able to make those costs to get those expungements and gets rights restored,” Attorney Danielle Woods said.
Wicks says he wants to use his right to vote to hopefully usher in laws to help the homeless.
“Our voices are part of our tools,” he said.
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