MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — A Tennessee activist was sentenced to six years and a day in prison after being convicted of illegally registering to vote while on probation for prior crimes.
Pamela Moses was convicted in November and sentenced on January 31 by Shelby County Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward. The judge told Moses he would consider placing her on probation after nine months if she completes certain prison programs and maintains good behavior, the Memphis district attorney’s office said in a news release.
Moses, who is black, was convicted of multiple crimes and placed on probation in 2015, but believed she had the right to vote and tried to register in 2019. Some legal experts called the sentence baffling and excessive, noting her as a symbol of the challenges convicted felons face when trying to have their franchise restored and pointing to the racial factors involved in the case.
David Becker, a former attorney for the votes section of the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said there was a movement among conservatives and liberals to change “punitive and restrictive laws” that disenfranchise of their rights to people who have committed crimes but are not incarcerated. and seek to reintegrate into society by exercising their right to vote. Many states are moving toward expanding eligibility for these individuals, he said.
“It seems like Tennessee is an outlier here, maintaining very restrictive laws that are hard to navigate, and so hard to navigate that I don’t think voters understand them and have questions and have misunderstandings at about them,” Becker said Wednesday. .
Voter registration fraud is not a crime someone commits maliciously, and registering to vote shouldn’t be difficult, he said.
“In many cases across the country where there are issues related to alleged voter registration fraud, almost all of the cases result from legitimate confusion about laws that are difficult to understand,” Becker said, executive director and founder of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Election Innovation. & To research. “How a six-year sentence could fit the crime here, I have to admit, it baffles me.”
Moses, 44, was placed on probation for seven years after pleading guilty in 2015 to charges of tampering with evidence and forgery, the district attorney’s office said. She was also convicted of misdemeanors of perjury, criminal harassment, theft under $500, and escape.
Moses was permanently barred from voting in Tennessee due to the evidence tampering conviction, the district attorney’s office said. She filed a restoration certificate and voter registration application with the Shelby County Board of Elections, according to evidence presented at her trial in November. Moses was still on probation when she filed the paperwork, prosecutors said.
Moses, a Black Lives Matter activist who ran for mayor of the city in 2019, said she believed her probation following a 2015 guilty plea was over and she could start working for restore his right to vote, the Daily Memphian reported.
Moses filed for reinstatement of her voting rights in 2019. She said the Tennessee Department of Corrections gave her a certificate saying her probation was over, but later rescinded the certificate, the newspaper online reported.
“This case is about prosecutorial misconduct and administrative oversight that should require an immediate change in the law, and our government should spend more time fighting crime rather than suppressing votes,” Moses said in a statement. .
Moïse filed a motion for a new trial.
Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for government watchdog group Common Cause, said the case shows how states can fail to educate people about suffrage and voter empowerment.
She also called the sentence excessive and said Moses’ race was likely a factor.
“It’s well understood and well known that the criminal justice system is tougher on black and brown defendants than white defendants, and there’s a lot of research to show that,” Albert said.
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