Tennessee lawmakers introduce bill to restore voting rights to felons
Some lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing legislation that would grant convicted felons a second chance at the right to vote.
Currently, there are more than 400,000 convicted felons across the state of Tennessee who don't have that right.
But a bill put forth by Democratic State Senator Brenda Gilmore from Nashville could change that.
"My view is if you want people to act civilized and be civilized, you have to treat them in a civilized manner," said Democratic District 28 State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem.
Hakeem is a supporter of the bill that would allow felons to re-apply for their right to vote--post conviction.
"That basic right to vote, I think, has a great impact on keeping people out," Hakeem told Channel 3.
Hakeem, a newcomer to politics, he says he's already spoken with Gilmore about carrying Senate Bill 36 in the House.
"Senator Gilmore I've had an opportunity to talk with her briefly. She's going to sponsor that bill in the senate and she and I have talked about my sponsoring that bill with others in the House," he said.
Passing SB36 into law would add Tennessee to the list of states, like Florida, opting to restore voting rights to convicted felons.
"I feel it would be an asset to our communities to have these people with right to vote," he explained.
If passed, the new law would remove Tennessee from the list of states with the highest percentage of citizens who have lost the right to vote.
Currently, 7% of Tennesseans are disenfranchised.
"I feel it's the right thing to do. People in the institution are human beings, they are American citizens," Hakeem continued.
Felons re-applying would be required to pay all outstanding court fees, including child support and restitution. Hakeem, who has worked closely with felons in the past, says it's a small price to pay in exchange for freedom.
"If you get out of the institution and you're made to feel like you're still being victimized, you can't get a job you can't find a place to stay, all those kinds of things impact whether you're a part of the group of recidivist," he said.
The bill still has a long way to go. So far, it's been filed for introduction in the state senate but no other action has been taken.