Money Often the Barrier To Convicted Felon Regaining Right to Vote

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(Memphis) Election Day is less than two weeks away, but not everyone will get to vote.

Felons are stripped of their right to vote when they get convicted. It can be reinstated, but there's a big barrier in the way for many of them. 

Going to prison is expensive. Not only does a felon have to pay back court fees, he has to pay back for every day he’s in jail.

That's $38.00 a day and it adds up, but once his sentence is through you have to pay all that back before your right to vote is reinstated.

Carra Adson said her boyfriend is a convicted felon and hasn't voted in years.

She, like many others in the Mid-South, was unaware that a felon can vote again, after they're out of jail and taken the right steps.

“That's great,” she said. “I think that's an equal opportunity for everyone so that's great.”

However, Josh Spickler said lack of money often stands in the way of voting again for many felons who come through his office as the Shelby County's Assistant Public Defender.

“Many times folks get out of jail and are off probation and have paid their debt, but may owe the actual debt, money, to the system for court costs and things and it has to be paid,” he said.

Spickler added that once the money owed is paid, a judge can reinstate a felon's full rights, which includes voting, but that also requires a felon to hire an attorney.

 If the felon wants to reinstate just their voting rights, all they have to do at that point is petition the election commission.

Spickler said never stop fighting for that right to vote, “I encourage anyone who doesn't have that right to inquire whether it be through our office or anyone who does criminal work whether they can have their right restored and a lot of people are eligible and they just don't know it and they're afraid to ask.”

Spickler said reinstatement does not include every felon like those who are convicted of murder, rape or child sex abuse.

To check if you’re eligible for reinstatement, contact the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office at (901) 222-2800.