Tennessee may ease ex-cons’ voting restrictions
The Republican-majority Tennessee legislature has begun moving a bill that would end the state's unique requirement that convicted felons may only start voting again if they prove they're current on child support payments and have paid any fines or restitutions connected to their crimes.
The legislation is being pushed by both the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group aligned with the Koch brothers.
Advocates say the current system makes it largely impossible for low-income felons to vote again. An estimated 320,000 Tennesseans (about 8 percent of the state's adult population) are convicted felons but fewer than 12,000 have seen their voting rights restored in the last 25 years, according to a report by Think Tennessee, a nonprofit think-tank.
Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
I grew up watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the late 1970s. It always felt to me a little nostalgic for its lessons that simple living was best. I enjoyed the show and still appreciate the values the show exemplifies.
A few years ago, as I was watching our societal divisions widen, I explored the idea of having Sheriff Andy meet Captain Picard of "Star Trek: the Next Generation." I researched and talked with people about how to help these two fictional characters meet and converse. Eventually I abandoned the idea as a fun thought experiment without a conclusion.
Maybe I was pursuing the wrong goal — and seeking something else could help improve our civil discourse.
Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.