Democratic legislators urge federal government to investigate voting rights in Tennessee

A group of lawmakers from Tennessee has reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice, urging them to examine a series of choices made by state elections officials. These decisions, according to the lawmakers, have resulted in the denial of voting rights for numerous individuals within the state.

Twenty-two Democratic state legislators have signed a letter addressed to Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. In the letter, they urge the department to promptly initiate an investigation and pursue legal action to protect the rights of Tennesseans. Although the letter is undated, it was highlighted in a recent blog post by Tennessee Senate Democrats on Thursday.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins have been accused by lawmakers of creating barriers that make it nearly impossible for individuals to regain their voting rights after being disenfranchised.

The lawmakers have highlighted the recent policy change made by election officials. They point out that individuals in Tennessee who have committed felonies must now be legally allowed to own guns before they can regain their right to vote. This new requirement could potentially prevent many applicants from ever being eligible for restoration, as it conflicts with both federal and state firearms laws, as noted by the group.

The letter asserts that voting rights in Tennessee are currently under attack. According to the letter, this dire situation has been brought about by a series of both illegal and unconstitutional decisions made by the Secretary of State and the state coordinator of elections whom he has appointed.

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The letter garnered the signatures of several Democratic state House representatives. Among those who signed were Caleb Hemmer, Vincent Dixie, Bob Freeman, Aftyn Behn, Bo Mitchell, John Ray Clemmons, Jason Powell, and Harold Love Jr., all from Nashville. Also signing were Sam McKenzie and Gloria Johnson from Knoxville, Justin Pearson, Torrey Harris, Larry Miller, and Antonio Parkinson from Memphis, Yusuf Hakeem from Chattanooga, and Johnny Shaw from Bolivar.

The Democratic state senators who signed the document included Charlane Oliver, Jeff Yarbro, and Heidi Campbell from Nashville, as well as London Lamar, Sara Kyle, and Raumesh Akbari from Memphis.

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