Poll Shows Tennessee Voters Support Voting Rights Restoration

handcuffs on an American flag

A new poll from Secure Democracy shows that in Tennessee, restoring voting rights to people with past convictions enjoys wide, bipartisan support.

67 percent of registered voters polled – including 60 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats – favor restoring voting rights to those convicted of a felony who have completed all terms of their sentence. The poll adds to a growing list of bipartisan voices that have come out in support of voting rights restoration, which is gaining momentum nationwide.

Some states, like Tennessee, still bar those with felony convictions from voting, but Americans on both sides of the political aisle are working together to help people with past convictions across the country regain their voting rights.

In Tennessee, Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded by conservative financiers Charles and David Koch, was part of a bipartisan coalition that supported legislation restoring voting rights to people with past convictions. Conservative commentator George Will has also written in favor of rights restoration, saying that “there is no good reason to stop felons from voting.”

Felony disenfranchisement creates yet another barrier to citizens that have paid their dues and seek to reenter society, and data suggest that restoring the right to vote could reduce recidivism rates.

In Florida, for example, prior to the enactment of Amendment 4, recidivism rates for those who had their voting rights restored was 0.4 percent, compared to 30 percent for those who were still disenfranchised.

In 2018, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) launched Restore Your Vote, an online tool that seeks to help millions of Americans restore their voting rights and understand how a felony conviction impacts one’s right to vote in each state. Restore Your Vote will launch an on-the-ground effort in the state of Tennessee in May 2019.

CLC has organized similar on-the-ground rights restoration programs in Alabama, Nevada, and Arizona.

CLC does this important work because democracy works best when access to the vote is expanded, not diminished. Secure Democracy’s new poll shows that voters in Tennessee are joining a chorus of voices pushing back against the disenfranchisement of American citizens.

This post was written by Zach Berger, a 2019 CLC Hinckley intern, and student at the University of Utah.