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PLN Associate Editor named as plaintiff in TN ACLU voting rights lawsuit

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2008.
Press Release - PLN Associate Editor named as plaintiff in TN ACLU voting rights lawsuit - 2008

PLN Associate Editor is Plaintiff in Tennessee ACLU Voting Rights Suit

February 28, 2008 - Prison Legal News


For Immediate Release

PLN Associate Editor Challenges Tennessee's Felon Disenfranchisement Law

NASHVILLE, TN – On February 26, 2008, the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit challenging provisions in the state's felon disenfranchisement law that prohibit ex-prisoners from regaining their voting rights if they owe child support or restitution.

Tennessee's disenfranchisement statute was amended in May 2006 to streamline the process whereby former felons can regain their voting rights; the new provisions also added the child support and restitution payment restrictions. The amendment resulted from a compromise bill that consolidated several bills related to voting rights, including a bill sponsored by the Voting Rights Committee of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM). Alex Friedmann, who serves as the associate editor for Prison Legal News, a monthly publication that reports on corrections and criminal justice issues, was the chairman of SOCM's Voting Rights Committee.

After the compromise bill was amended to include the restitution and child support provisions, which predicated the ability to regain one's voting rights on financial worth and ability to pay, SOCM withdrew its support. The bill was passed into law and Friedmann agreed to be a plaintiff in this subsequent lawsuit challenging the statute's payment requirements.

“The ability to vote should not be based on one’s financial status,” observed Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. The ACLU suit raises claims of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as violations of the Due Process clause, the Ex Post Facto clause and the 24th Amendment.

The State of Tennessee has refused to reinstate Friedmann's voting rights, claiming he owes unpaid restitution from a 1989 criminal conviction. The two other plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit, Terence Johnson and Jim Harris, are unable to vote because they owe child support – even though they have custody of their children. Mr. Johnson also owes restitution.

The plaintiffs are represented by Nancy Abudu, Laughlin McDonald and Neil Bradley of the national ACLU's Voting Rights Project, Tricia Herzfeld of the ACLU of Tennessee, and attorney Charles Grant of the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC.

The case is Johnson, et al. v. Bredesen, et al., USDC MD Tenn., No. 3:08-cv-00187.

Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. prisons. PLN publishes a monthly newsletter that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has over 6,800 subscribers in all 50 states
and operates a website ( that contains a comprehensive national database of prison-related court rulings, verdicts and settlements. PLN has reported extensively on felon disenfranchisement issues.

For further information, contact:

Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor
Prison Legal News
2400 NW 80th St., Box 148
Seattle, WA 98117
(615) 495-6568

ACLU of Tennessee
P.O. Box 120160
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 320-7142



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