The Tennessee Supreme Court has made it tougher for former felons who moved to the state to vote.
Three years ago, Grainger County resident Ernest Falls tried to register to vote. He had served his sentence for a felony he committed in Virginia in the 1980s, and was pardoned by the governor.
Since he was eligible to vote in Virginia, he figured he would be able to register in Tennessee, where he now lives. But he wasn’t.
“When Earnest registered to vote, the Secretary of State’s office had changed their mind. And their new policy was now everybody has to get a Certificate of Restoration,” explained Blair Bowie with the Campaign Legal Center. “Everybody has to go through this process to get their voting rights restored in Tennessee.”
To get a restoration certificate, people have to go to court and show documents that prove they’ve served out their sentence. This includes probation and parole, and also paying off any court costs.
So, while Falls can vote back in Virginia where he committed the crime, Tennessee laws require that he pay back $800 in court costs he accrued — only then can he obtain a Certificate of Restoration from the courts to vote in his new state.