by Kimberlee Kruesi
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — An attempt to allow certain felons with out-of-state convictions permission to participate in Tennessee’s upcoming August 6 primary election came to a halt Friday.
Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle denied a temporary injunction request that would have allowed out-of-state felons to vote in the primary as long as they had their voting rights restored in the state of their convictions.
The request – based on a lawsuit filed less than two weeks ago – was made by the Campaign Legal Center, a group challenging the legality of Tennessee’s voter restoration rules surrounding out-of-state felony convictions.
The group had sought a temporary injunction to force state officials to add their clients and others to the voter rolls ahead of the August 6 primary while the lawsuit was ongoing.
However, Lyle argued Friday that the plaintiffs had not “demonstrated that their construction of the statutes is substantially likely to prevail.”
Lyle also mentioned that the lawsuit was “filed a mere ten days ago,” noting that should the plaintiffs prevail, the state would be required modify its voter registration form, online voter registration portal and directives to local election officials.
According to Campaign Legal Center, their clients have been barred from voting in the primary election because Tennessee has improperly imposed additional barriers that would clear them to submit a ballot.
Currently, Tennessee requires those who have been convicted of a felony to have fully paid off their restitution and legal fees in order to have their voting rights restored. This requirement has long sparked concern from voter advocates, who argue it creates an impossible burden for those who have been convicted.
Campaign Legal Center contends that people who’ve had their voting rights restored in the state of their felony conviction should not have to follow Tennessee’s additional rules.
According to a 2016 report by The Sentencing Project, an estimated 421,000 Tennesseans are barred from voting due to felony convictions — or about 8.2% of the state’s total voting population.
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Kimberlee Kruesi is a reporter at The Associated Press.
Photo “Courthouse in Nashville” by Nicolas Henderson CC2.0.