20-HB0547/SB0589 – Curcio/Dickerson

Bill Description

Under present law, subject to certain exceptions, a person who is convicted of a felony is disqualified from voting in this state. Generally, a convicted felon who has paid any court-ordered restitution, paid all court costs, and is current on any applicable child support obligation may apply for a voter registration card and have the right of suffrage restored upon:

(1) Receiving a pardon, except where the pardon contains special conditions pertaining to the right of suffrage;
(2) The discharge from custody by reason of service or expiration of the maximum sentence imposed by the court for the infamous crime; or
(3) Being granted a certificate of final discharge from supervision by the board of parole or any equivalent discharge by another state, the federal government, or county correction authority.

Under present law, depending on the date of the conviction, persons are never eligible to register and vote in this state after being convicted of the following: voter fraud; treason; any degree of murder; any degree of rape; felony bribery; felony misconduct by a public official or employee; felony perjury; felony sexual offense; or felony violent sexual offense.

This bill changes present law by limiting the period when a felony conviction (other than a conviction for an offense that renders a person perpetually ineligible to register and vote under present law) renders a person ineligible to vote to the period when the person is incarcerated, serving parole, or on probation. This bill specifies that restoration of voting rights must not be denied based on inability or failure to pay civil or criminal penalties or the extension of a probationary period due to failure to pay monetary obligations or penalties.

Under this bill, a person who receives a pardon will be eligible to register and vote regardless of whether the pardon contains special conditions concerning voting rights.

Present law requires that a person whose voting rights are restored provide a copy of a court order or a certificate of restoration to the administrator of elections in order to register to vote. Such documents are also provided to the coordinator of elections by the issuing authority. In the case of a certificate of restoration, the person must request the document from the releasing authority and must then submit the document to the administrator of elections in order to register to vote.

This bill makes issuance of a certificate of restoration mandatory for releasing authorities so that a person no longer has to request the certificate. This bill also requires administrators of elections to accept voter registration applications from persons whose voting rights are restored with or without the accompanying certificate. If the applicant does not submit a certificate of restoration, the administrator must verify the applicant's eligibility to vote with the secretary of state. This bill requires the department of correction to communicate at least twice a month to the secretary of state concerning persons who are newly eligible for voter registration.

ON JUNE 16, 2020, THE HOUSE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #1 AND PASSED HOUSE BILL 547, AS AMENDED.

AMENDMENT #1 rewrites this bill to clarify that the present law general authorization for convicted felons to have the rights of citizenship restored does not provide eligibility to register to vote for persons who are never eligible to register and vote in this state under present law. Present law prohibits persons convicted of any of the following offenses from ever being eligible to register to vote in Tennessee: voter fraud, treason, any degree of murder or rape, felony bribery, felony misconduct involving a public official or employee, felony interference with government operations, and any felony sexual offense or violent sexual offense for which the offender must register as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender.

Present law requires that a person who has been rendered infamous and deprived of the right to vote by the judgment of any court to comply with various requirements in order to be eligible to apply for a voter registration card and have the right to vote restored, including, but not limited to, requirements that the person has paid any restitution ordered as part of the sentence, paid all court costs assessed at the end of the trial (unless the person is found indigent), and is current on any child support obligations. This amendment adds authorization for a person who has not satisfied the financial requirements for restoration of voting rights to enter a payment plan and be able to apply for a voter registration card and have the person's voting rights provisionally restored. A person who willfully fails to comply with a payment plan entered under this amendment may have the person's provisional right to vote revoked after being given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence of inability to pay

TLRC Position

,We support this bill but it was not scored. This bill was used to award merit points to the sponsor.

TLRC Observed Process

FLOOR VOTE: PASSAGE ON THIRD CONSIDERATION 6/16/2020
Ayes………………………………………..86
Noes…………………………………………0
Present and not voting……………….3

No Action in Senate.
Yet another bill passed in the house and ignored by the Senate.

Vote Result: Pass House Only

Score: +5

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.