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Tennessee elections officials ask appeals court to delay felon voter restoration ruling

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Tennessee elections officials ask appeals court to delay felon voter restoration ruling

Jun 12, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Kathy Carlson
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Tennessee elections officials ask appeals court to delay felon voter restoration ruling
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The Fred D. Thompson U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building at 719 Church St. in Nashville, Tenn. Photo John Partipilo The new courthouse replaces the Estes Kefauver Federal Building & Courthouse Annex. Photograph by John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout

Tennessee election officials want a U.S. Appeals Court to postpone changes to how people with felony convictions can register to vote until after this year’s elections. 

Officials said in a court filing that there’s not enough time to make the changes a federal court judge ordered them to make in a ruling issued last week. 

The Tennessee Conference of NAACP filed a lawsuit against state officials in 2020, challenging requirements for people with felony convictions who want to regain the right to vote after they’ve been released from prison.  

When a person is convicted, Tennessee law strips them of their voting rights, but a formerly incarcerated individual can petition to have those rights restored. But, there are exceptions. Before 1981 this felony vote-stripping law didn’t exist or only applied to a narrow set of convicted crimes. 

U.S. District Judge William Campbell ruled in May that the state violated federal voting law when requiring a group of formerly incarcerated felons convicted before 1981 to prove they were entitled to register to vote, even though this group never lost the right to vote in the first place. 

Campbell, in his ruling, said Tennessee officials should stop requiring formerly incarcerated felons to provide additional proof in order to have their voting rights restored. Instead, he ordered the state to write up a new policy and procedure for processing felony voter registrations and to train election workers how to follow it. 

Attorneys for the state filed a one-page notice that they were appealing Campbell’s order two after days after it was issued. 

Officials asked the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from district court rulings in Tennessee, to stop the Middle Tennessee district court from enforcing Campbell’s order while the state appealed it. 

Officials argued that requiring the state to change procedures “during an ongoing election” would undermine “the integrity of our electoral processes.”

Campbell’s order
doc 237 campbell order on count 6