Restoration of Voting Rights

Article 4, §2 of the Tennessee Constitution provides that the Tennessee legislature may deny the right to vote to persons convicted of "infamous" crimes. Pursuant to this provision in the Tennessee Constitution, the Tennessee legislature has excluded individuals convicted of various felonies from the right of suffrage.

However, the legislature has also established conditions and procedures through which individuals who have lost their voting rights may regain them. The manner in which a person may restore a lost voting right depends upon the crime committed and the year in which the conviction occurred. If your conviction has been expunged, you may answer “No” when asked if you have a felony conviction on the voter registration form.

Conviction on or after May 18, 1981

All convictions for a crime that is a felony in Tennessee, whether by a Tennessee court, a court in another state, or a federal court, cause you to forfeit your eligibility to vote. You may regain your eligibility to vote if you have your conviction expunged or if you have your voting rights restored. 

The restoration of voting rights form may be used to restore an individual’s voting rights for a felony conviction on or after May 18, 1981. Note: For each felony conviction imposed on or after May 18, 1981, whether it is a federal conviction, a state conviction within Tennessee or a state conviction from another state, a separate restoration of voting rights form must be completed for each felony conviction with a different docket/case number.

The form must be completed by an agent, such as a probation/parole officer or criminal court clerk, who has the authority to provide the required information regarding the individual’s conviction, final release date and information regarding restitution or court cost. The person convicted of the felony offense may not complete the restoration of voting rights form. Once the form(s) are completed, the form(s) must be submitted to the local county election commission office in the county in which the individual resides.

The restoration of voting rights form only restores an individual’s voting rights. An individual’s citizenship rights must be restored through a court order.

However, you are never eligible to register and vote if you were convicted of specific felonies within specific date ranges:

After July 1, 1986

  • Voter fraud
  • Treason
  • First-degree murder
  • Aggravated rape

After July 1, 1996, to June 30, 2006

  • Voter fraud
  • Treason
  • Any degree of murder or rape

After July 1, 2006

  • Voter fraud
  • Treason
  • Any degree of murder or rape
  • Certain felonies involving bribery, misconduct involving public officials and employees, or interference with government operations
  • Sexual offenses or violent sexual offenses that are felonies where the victim was a minor

Conviction between January 15, 1973, and May 17, 1981

All persons who were convicted during this time period are eligible to vote. You do not need to have your rights restored, but the Division of Elections will need to verify you were convicted during this time period.

Conviction prior to January 15, 1973

You still have the right to vote unless you were convicted of one of the following crimes:

  • Abusing a female child
  • Arson and felonious burning
  • Bigamy
  • Bribery
  • Burglary
  • Felonious breaking into a business house, outhouse other than a dwelling house
  • Felonious breaking and entering a dwelling house
  • Larceny
  • Horse stealing
  • Robbery
  • Stealing bills of exchange or other valuable papers
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Counterfeiting
  • Forgery
  • Destroying a will
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Buggery
  • Perjury
  • Subornation of perjury

Even if you were convicted of a crime listed above, you still have the right to vote if you can show that at the time of your conviction the judge did not render you “infamous,” if your conviction was reversed on appeal or expunged, if you received a full pardon, or if you have your voting rights restored.

Download a summary handout regarding eligibility to vote after a felony conviction

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