Tennessee is the only state in the nation that requires people who have been released from prison to be up-to-date on child support to register to vote.
But, a bill in the state legislature could soon change that.
The new proposal makes it clear that a debt — including child support, restitution or court fines — cannot be used to squash an ex-offender’s right to vote.
Republican Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, is the bill’s sponsor.
“If you are 12 to 15 years behind on any payment, I don’t care who you are, but especially if you’ve been sitting in prison that entire time, it is going to be extremely difficult for you to catch up in any timely manner,” Curcio told WPLN.
Curcio said people will still need to pay their debts, but that it is in the state’s interest to restore voting rights.
The ACLU also backs the measure. The group unsuccessfully sued the state in 2008 claiming that the current law is equivalent to a poll tax.
“Denying the right to vote to individuals who have served their time and are trying to get back on their feet serves no public safety interest,” said Hedy Weinberg, Tennessee ACLU’s executive director.
The bill would also streamline the voting registration process for ex-offenders. They’d get a certificate showing that their voting rights have been restored.