The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee announced Wednesday they have filed a petition with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a case challenging a Tennessee law that denies voting rights to people with felony convictions and who have outstanding financial obligations related to their conviction or who owe child support.
In a release, the ACLU claims the law violates both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. Previously, a three-judge panel in a 2-1 decision dismissed the case.
“Denying voting rights to those who have served their time based solely on their inability to pay a particular debt amounts to unconstitutional discrimination,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “This law is particularly hard on indigent and low-income people who are trying to put their lives back together. Restoring the right to vote is critical for these individuals to re-integrate into society, and it should not be withheld based on economic status.”
The ACLU said the court was “wrong to dismiss this case, especially in light of Supreme Court cases which routinely have struck down similar laws that discriminate on the basis of wealth.”