Activist gets 6 years in prison in voter registration case

Feb 9, 2022, 1:13 PM | Updated: 1:28 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee activist has been sentenced to six years and a day in prison after she was convicted of illegally registering to vote while she was on probation for previous felonies.

Pamela Moses was convicted in November and sentenced on Jan. 31 by Shelby County Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward. The judge told Moses that he would consider placing her on probation after nine months if she completes certain prison programs and maintains good behavior, the district attorney’s office in Memphis said in a news release.

Moses, who is Black, was convicted of multiple felonies and placed on probation in 2015, but she thought she was eligible to vote and tried to register in 2019. Some legal experts have called the sentence baffling and excessive, noting it as a symbol of challenges faced by convicted felons when they try to have their voting rights restored and pointing out racial factors involved in the case.

David Becker, a former attorney in the voting section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said there is a movement among both conservatives and liberals to change “punitive and restrictive laws” that effectively disenfranchise people who have committed felonies but are not incarcerated and seek to return to society by exercising their right to vote. Many states are moving toward extending voter eligibility to such people, he said.

“It appears that Tennessee is an outlier here, that it is maintaining very restrictive laws that are difficult to navigate, and so difficult to navigate that I don’t think voters understand them and have questions and have misunderstandings about them,” Becker said Wednesday.

Voter registration fraud is not a crime someone commits out of malice, and registering to vote should not be difficult, he said.

“In many cases around the country where there’s issues related to alleged voter registration fraud, almost every single case arises from legitimate confusion about difficult-to-understand laws,” said Becker, executive director and founder of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research. “How a sentence of six years might fit the crime here, I have to admit, is baffling to me.”

Moses, 44, was placed on probation for seven years after she pleaded guilty in 2015 to felony charges of tampering with evidence and forgery, the district attorney’s office said. She also was convicted of misdemeanor counts of perjury, stalking, theft under $500 and escape.

Moses was permanently barred from voting in Tennessee because of the tampering with evidence conviction, the district attorney’s office said. She filed a certificate of restoration and application for voter registration with the Shelby County Election Commission, according to evidence presented at her November trial. Moses was still serving probation when she filed the documents, prosecutors said.

Moses, a Black Lives Matter activist who ran for city mayor in 2019, said she thought her probation from a 2015 guilty plea had ended, and that she could begin working to restore her voting rights, the Daily Memphian reported.

Moses applied to have her voting rights restored in 2019. She said the Tennessee Department of Correction gave her a certificate saying her probation had ended, but then rescinded the certificate, the online newspaper reported.

“This case is about prosecutorial misconduct and administrative oversight which should require an immediate change of the law, and our government should spend more time fighting crime rather than suppressing votes,” Moses said in a statement.

Moses has filed a motion for a new trial.

Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for the government watchdog group Common Cause, said the case shows how states can fail to educate people about voting rights and voter reenfranchisement.

She also called the sentence excessive and said Moses’ race is likely a factor.

“It is well understood and well known that the criminal justice system is harsher on Black and brown defendants than it is on white defendants, and there’s plenty of research to show that,” Albert said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Mississippi justices block more DNA tests in death row case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that a death row inmate will not be allowed to seek additional DNA testing on crime scene evidence from the shooting deaths of two college students nearly 30 years ago. Willie Jerome Manning, now 54, remains in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He was […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

UK military investigates hacks on Army social media accounts

LONDON (AP) — British military authorities are trying to find out who hacked the army’s social media accounts over the weekend, flooding them with cryptocurrency videos and posts related to collectible electronic art. The investigation was launched after authorized content on the army’s YouTube account was replaced with a video feed promoting cryptocurrencies that included […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

NASA satellite breaks from orbit around Earth, heads to moon

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A satellite the size of a microwave oven successfully broke free from its orbit around Earth on Monday and is headed toward the moon, the latest step in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface again. It’s been an unusual journey already for the Capstone satellite. It was […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

It’s a new era for funding on both sides of abortion debate

NEW YORK (AP) — The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has ushered in a new era of funding on both sides of the abortion debate. With the legality of abortion now up to individual states to determine, an issue long debated by legislators and philanthropists — when it was largely theoretical because only […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

Top NGO calls Switzerland ‘safe haven’ for Russian oligarchs

LUGANO, Switzerland (AP) — A leading Swiss nongovernmental group on Monday called out Switzerland as a “safe haven” for Russian oligarchs and as a trading hub for Russian oil, grain and coal. Public Eye urged the Swiss executive branch to “use all levers at its disposal to stop the financing of this inhuman aggression,” in […]
5 hours ago
Some 25 tractors parked outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Albert Heijn during a b...
Associated Press

Dutch farmers block entrances to supermarket warehouses

ZAANDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch farmers angry at government plans to slash emissions used tractors and trucks Monday to blockade supermarket distribution centers, the latest actions in a summer of discontent in the country’s lucrative agricultural sector. The Netherlands’ busiest aviation hub, Schiphol Airport, urged travelers to use public transport to get to its terminals […]
5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Activist gets 6 years in prison in voter registration case