Tennessee lawmakers are considering a move to make it easier for some felons to get their voting rights restored. The legislation would lift the Republican-led state’s unique requirement for formerly incarcerated individuals to be up-to-date on child support before restoration of voting rights, in addition to other court fines and restitution. It would also aim to simplify the bureaucratic process for those people to get their rights back once they’re out of prison and off parole and probation. The legislation has made partners of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity, who headlined a news event Wednesday touting the bill. Tori Venable, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the legislation offers common ground for her group, at times perceived as right-leaning, and the ACLU, sometimes thought of as left-leaning.
Also on hand Wednesday was Tennessee’s Matthew Charles, one of the first prisoners released under criminal justice legislation President Donald Trump recently signed with the support of the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity. Charles was a guest of Trump at the State of the Union speech this month.
Advocates have long argued that Tennessee’s current system makes it largely impossible for many low-income people leaving prison to ever vote again because they’re unlikely to catch up on their hefty child support payments and court fines.