ACLU challenges Tennessee voting rights restoration law

ACLU challenges Tennessee voting rights restoration law

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] in federal court Monday challenging a Tennessee state law that requires convicted felons to pay "all outstanding legal financial obligations" before their voting rights are restored. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of three convicted felons who have completed their imprisonment terms, challenges Sections 40-29-202(b) and (c) [text] of the Tennessee Code, which require felons to pay outstanding restitution and child support fees before being eligible to apply for a voter registration card. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee [official website], alleges that such a financial burden violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [LII text] by "discriminat[ing] among citizens on the basis of wealth."

Last July, the Washington Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling [ACLU press release], and held that it is not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to require convicted felons to fulfill their payment of court-imposed fines before restoring their voting rights. The ACLU brought that lawsuit on behalf of three convicted felons against the state of Washington with similar voting rights restoration provisions. The ACLU filed another lawsuit [press release] last May, Coronado v. Napolitano [complaint, PDF], challenging Arizona's state law requiring convicted felons to fulfill outstanding legal financial obligations to the state before having their voting rights restored. That case is still pending in federal court. The Tennessean has more.