Most Tennesseans Support Restoring Voting Rights for Felons, New Poll Finds
According to the poll from Secure Democracy, 67% of Tennessee voters support legislation that would allow people with felony convictions to vote again after they've completed their sentences and paid their court fees.
A wide margin of Tennesseans support allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after they've served their time, according to a new poll released Thursday by a national advocacy group.
According to the poll from Secure Democracy, 67% of Tennessee voters support legislation that would allow people with felony convictions to vote again after they've completed their sentences and paid their court fees. Secure Democracy is a nonpartisan group that works on election issues.
That support holds among voters affiliated with both political parties.
According to the poll, 60% of Tennessee Republicans support restoring voting for felons who have fulfilled the requirements of their sentences, according to the poll. So do 78% of Democrats.
“When it comes to rights restoration, it’s clear that Tennessee voters want to eliminate all government barriers for those who have served their time and redeemed themselves,” Colin Weaver, director of state affairs for Secure Democracy, said in a statement.
The poll found strong support remained for restoring voting rights for felons who still had outstanding court costs, as long as they had fulfilled other requirements of their sentences, like good behavior and staying off drugs.
Pollsters interviewed 807 registered Tennessee voters in March and April. The margin of error is 4.3%.
The results bolster ongoing efforts to make it easier for felons to get their voting rights back, said Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch.
Americans for Prosperity was part of a bipartisan coalition this year that supported Tennessee legislation that would have reduced barriers for voting rights restoration.
Eligible felons already can restore their voting rights in Tennessee, but the process is complicated.
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Venable said Tennessee is the only state that requires applying felons to be completely up to date with child support payments, even if those payments had nothing to do with their criminal conviction. The new legislation would have eased that requirement.
Ongoing debate over details in the legislation temporarily sidelined the bill this week, but Venable said she is optimistic it could be revived in 2020 once more details are hammered out.
She pointed to the polling data as evidence that Tennessee voters supported the effort.
“They’re ready for a change," Venable said. "Those numbers are going to continue to rise."
Venable said her group would continue to engage with voters one on one this summer to explain the process and potential improvements. She said state leaders already had committed to streamlining the existing process.
"In a few short months since the rights restoration bill was introduced we’ve seen incredible energy and bipartisan support from both lawmakers and Tennessee voters," said Weaver, the state director with Secure Democracy. "We are confident that public awareness and momentum on this issue will only grow over the coming year, and that we’ll be able to work with our bill sponsors to get this bill passed when the legislature reconvenes in 2020."