Tennessee lawmakers introduce bills to restore voting rights for convicted felons

Tennessee lawmakers introduce bills to restore voting rights for convicted felons
© Getty Images

Two Tennessee state lawmakers on Wednesday introduced bills to restore the voting rights of people with felony convictions after they serve their sentences.

State Sen. Steven Dickerson (R) and State Rep. Michael Curcio (R) introduced bills in the state Senate and state House of Representatives, respectively.

The bills restore “the voting rights of persons convicted of certain infamous crimes upon receipt of a pardon or completion of any sentence of incarceration,” according to a statement. Dickerson said the bill would exclude people who have been convicted of murder, aggravated rape, treason or voter fraud, but that all other felons would see their rights restored. 

Currently, people convicted of felonies after 1981 in Tennessee do not have the right to vote after they complete their sentences, but can petition to get their voting rights back.

“It’s such a difficult process that almost nobody actually does it,” Dickerson said. He added that he hopes to create a “streamlined” process to make it easier for people to get their rights back. He said he intends for the bill to be retroactive.

Dickerson said he didn’t like that people could not have a say in who was governing them after they served their time.

“It’s very frustrating and somewhat dehumanizing for these folks to get out and not be able to vote.”

Whether people convicted of felonies have the right to vote varies greatly by state. The issue came into the national spotlight last year, when Florida added a ballot amendment that allowed its citizens to vote on felon voting rights restoration. The amendment passed in November, with 64 percent support.

“We’ve got support for this left, right and center,” Dickerson said. “This is sort of sweeping the country.”

The bill's full text was not available online Thursday afternoon.