The state’s toughened voting rights restoration policy requires people convicted of a felony to get their gun rights restored before they can become eligible to cast a ballot again, Tennessee’s elections office said Tuesday, confirming a mandate that officials had been debating internally.
Last summer, election officials interpreted a state Supreme Court ruling as requiring that all convicted felons applying for reinstated voting rights first get their full citizenship rights restored by a judge or show they were pardoned. Voting rights advocates have argued the legal interpretation was way off-base.
The change, instituted by elections officials in July, has since halted almost all voting rights restorations: More than 60 people were denied and just one person approved. In the nearly seven months before it was implemented, about 200 people were approved and 120 denied, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.