I Thought It Was Going to Be a Breeze to Get My Voting Rights Back

Milton Thomas sitting at a table
Milton Thomas in the Martha O'Bryan Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Casey Atkins/Campaign Legal Center.

My name is Milton Thomas, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee and I’m a maintenance worker at Martha O’Bryan Center.  I’ve been here, born and raised, all my life. I lost both my parents at an early age to cancer, so I was forced to grow up real quick.

I got in some trouble in '97-'98, and I didn’t know that they would take your voting rights for catching a felony, but I got a felony. The last person I voted for was Bill Clinton. That’s how long it’s been since I voted.

In February of this year, a coworker asked about my background and what was going on, and I told her. And it turns out, the criteria I had meant that I was eligible to get my voting rights back. Once we started that process, I thought it was going to be a breeze but it was a lot of hurdles and roadblocks — one being, you have to have all your court costs and fines paid. 

The second thing is you have to be current on your child support. I had custody of my kids but I was still paying child support to their mother. I fought that, and I paid child support while I had custody of my kids. Didn’t complain, I just did it. 

If you have something taken away from you that’s really not a good feeling. You had a freedom, you had a right to speak, and since I got in trouble it’s been "our word means nothing." No matter what I’ve done or what I’m doing or what I’m going to continue to do, they look at it as "you’re nothing."

I feel like a lot of people don’t care about voting because they feel like it doesn’t mean nothing, it just means one vote. But the fact is that your one vote, if you’ve got another million people who feel like you and then you all get your voting rights back, that’s a million votes. I feel like that if you have a chance to get something, get it. Period.

Milton Thomas was finally able to regain his right to vote by working with organizers from Restore Your Vote.

Learn more about Milton's story and the stories of other voters with past convictions on CLC's Democracy Decoded podcast here.

Restore Your Vote

Not all felony convictions disqualify you from voting. Find out if you have the right to vote.