Tennessee Denies Voting Rights to Residents Who Lost Gun Rights

Tennessee is imposing more difficult requirements on residents seeking restoration of their voting rights. In addition to existing stringent rules, such as the condition that the right to vote is based on payment of legal debt and current child support, Tennessee now requires that supplicants successfully seek restoration of their gun rights before being allowed to vote again. The interaction between state and federal law makes this requirement very difficult to fulfill, with people convicted of drug felonies or violent crimes unlikely to be able to restore their gun rights under Tennessee law. The complexity of the process is already a significant obstacle to re-enfranchisement in Tennessee, with the state having one of the most convoluted, harsh, and poorly managed rights restoration processes of any state. Despite this, the state has the highest rate of disenfranchisement based on criminal records in the country, with over 450,000 citizens denied the right to vote. The new requirement further complicates this process, making it even more difficult for individuals to regain their voting rights. The requirement stems from a Tennessee Supreme Court decision in the 2023 case Falls v. Goins. However, this decision did not actually address the issue of whether gun rights are a prerequisite for voting rights. The requirement has been criticized as being “totally bogus,” with a spokesperson for the Campaign Legal Center questioning its legality. The new policy essentially presents an impossible hurdle for residents seeking to restore their right to vote.