Tennessee Woman Receives Six Years in Prison for Illegally Registering to Vote in 2020

There is a troubling case in Tennessee this week where Pamela Moses has been given six years and one day in prison for illegally registering to vote last November. It is an exceptionally severe sentence, particularly due to the mitigating circumstances in the case.

Moses, 44, is a Black Lives Matter activist and former Democratic mayoral candidate in Memphis. She has an extensive record of felony convictions. Moses pleaded guilty in 2015 to felonies including tampering with evidence and forgery, as well as misdemeanor charges of perjury, stalking, theft under $500, and escape. The tampering charge was the barrier for voting eligibility because she was serving seven years of probation.

However, she wanted to vote in the 2020 election and asked officials at the corrections department and county election commission to confirm that she had completed her probation on the last offense. They signed off on the form, confirming that she had completed her probation. She then submitted the form with her voter registration.

The officials later said that they made a mistake.  While she told the court that she received a letter saying that her voting rights were restored, Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward felt that she intentionally deceived probation officials to restore her voting rights. He stated “you tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation.” 

Even if the court is correct about her intentional deception, six years strikes me as quite excessive. I understand that the crime also violated her probation but six years is a sentence that we usually see for violent felonies.

108 thoughts on “Tennessee Woman Receives Six Years in Prison for Illegally Registering to Vote in 2020”

  1. She deserves a “Scooter Libby pardon” of all charges. If rich attorneys, that attended the best law schools, can receive a pardon – so can she. A president’s pardon power was actually designed for cases like this, not to bail out buddies with political connections.

  2. Um . . . how did the professor miss all of her previous charges? I agree that six years might seem harsh for one charge, but that is not what is in evidence here. Sorry, but I’m actually thinking she is a great object lesson to others that completely reject the rules of society and yet still think they have a right to participate in them. Her hardship, her crazy thinking, her actions as a result of those things – they are not my fault, and I do not want someone like her influencing what governs my daily life as someone that did not choose that path. I’m sorry, but if I were on that jury, six years would seem far too mild. For someone with her demonstrable record, this is a kindness.

    1. If she’s not returned to the community in the same capacity as you when she’s paid her debt is that her fault, or did someone take a part of her being while saying she’s free again, if you think she should be punished for good what’s the use of having the integrity to do the time, no matter how many times, if the courts said she’s clear how are the citizens gonna further ridicule someone who paid their dept. You do understand that to own a persons liberties and rights to the soil, which is a part of his being means you OWN them right, now ask yourself is that legal in 2022 and lets do something to help her fight this crimal Government to the United States Authorities….

      1. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. This is simple math. Multiple felony convictions and probation violation = more jail time.

  3. British comedian and recovered addict Russell Brand does an awesome impersonation of Brian Stelter @1:46
    No wonder CNN is a flushable smelly tissue these days

  4. Hi Lin,

    This is not all that was left out. Moses is no angel.

    “One of the most serious incidents was when Moses pleaded guilty in 2015 to a 10-count indictment, including perjury and tampering with evidence. She allegedly stalked and harassed a Shelby County judge between February and March 2014 by impersonating a lawyer and notary public in an effort to file a complaint against the judge, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Moses was given an eight-year suspended sentence, and the judge in that case ordered that she serve the time on probation.“


    There is certainly more to this story than meets the eye. Was the six year penalty for the vote registration violation OR was it the sentence for the previous crime for which she violated probation?

  5. Jonathan: I agree. Pamela Moses should not have received a 6 year sentence. But you have left out important facts that might explain the harsh sentence. Tennessee, a former slave state, has a long history of racist laws and practices. It did not ratify the 15th Amendment until 1997! Between 1866 and 1955 the state enacted 20 Jim Crow laws–requiring school and public segregation. Reactionary politics in Tennessee is legend. In 1925 the legislature passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The famous Scopes trial was the result. Scopes was convicted and Tennessee prevented the teaching of evolution until 1967. Fast forward to today. Tennessee is one of 19 states that are passing voter suppression laws–mainly aimed at making it harder for Black voter to exercise the franchise. It’s called “Jim Crow II”. Like in Georgia the white dominated legislature in Tennessee doesn’t want a repeat of 2020. Then there is the issue of the disparate treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system. Black males typically get a harsher sentence than whites for the same crime.

    Then why did Moses get six years? Not because of intentional voter fraud but because of a “clerical error”. A white probably would not have even been prosecuted or received only probation., A white Texas man who intentionally forged ballots was given only probation. The 17 yr old son of Virginia Gov. Glen Youngkin intentionally tried to vote twice but was not even prosecuted. Tennessee wanted to make an example by prosecuting Moses–to send a not so subtle message to Black voters to keep them away from the polls. Moses was singled out precisely because she is Black and a civil rights activist. There is the other question is why convicted felons should even be denied the right to vote. This is another way states try to suppress the Black vote. In almost all European democracies a felon, even when in prison, is not denied the right to vote.

    You say you find the Moses case “troubling” but you don’t explain why. I have attempted above to do this. Racism is embedded in both the criminal justice system and the enforcement of voting laws. That’s why the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is so important but why the GOP is so against it. All of this is part of the bigger picture you choose to ignore. You missed a teachable moment here but chose to take a pass. That’s “troubling”!

    1. Could it have been the judge was unimpressed by her long criminal record? This was no first time offense – she clearly feels that she is above the law.

    2. Dennis, please sight your source that lends credence to your claim that Youngkin’s son tried to vote twice. I looked at The Guardian story and the person who said his son tried to vote was a Democrat. Democrats are in control of politics in Virginia so why have the Democrats in charge not brought charges against Younkin’s son. Could it be that it’s because they know that there is no there there. As to Tennessee restricting voting rights are you referring to the states requirement to have an ID to vote. A large majority of Americans think that an ID should be required to vote. One would think that some degree of humility would be expressed when one discovers that he is on the wrong side of an argument and that his continuance of such an argument can only be evaluated as silly. How could one think that humility would be a redeeming characteristic in the McIntyre camp.

    3. DM:
      “Fast forward to today. Tennessee is one of 19 states that are passing voter suppression laws–mainly aimed at making it harder for Black voter to exercise the franchise. It’s called “Jim Crow II”. Like in Georgia the white dominated legislature in Tennessee doesn’t want a repeat of 2020. Then there is the issue of the disparate treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system. Black males typically get a harsher sentence than whites for the same crime.”
      Lots of insulting allegations but no proof since there isn’t any. Oh and my offer still stands, find me one person illegally denied the right to vote on election day and I will go to federal court that day and ask for an injunction to make sure it doesn’t happen. Four elections and no one has taken me up on it.

  6. Sorry Professor I can’t agree with you on the severity of the sentence. The severity of punishment should be predicated on the totality of the criminals record. This person was a serial criminal with no respect for law and order. The judge knows that she will be back out on the streets in three years or less. If he would have sentenced her to three years she would be back on the streets in a year and a half. I repeat, she is a serial criminal who has committed the same crime act six times. I think this qualifies her as a repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat offender. I believe that her past history needed to be taken into account when the judge handed down his sentence. Was there any Remorse?

  7. You know, I’m glad that this issue is being brought to light-from all angles. It pits a woman who voted illegally six times prior to this conviction–against a governmental unit that was apparently lax in checking its own records. We all know the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me…
    Thanks to this exposure, more local and state governments might now be more circumspect in reviewing, verifying, and cleaning up voter rolls….

    1. So after being convicted AND sentenced AND completing the sentence you should establish a sentence based on those past convictions and completions?

      She already paid for her past convictions. So she has to be given a more severe sentence because she met all the conditions the law requires of her? She’s being judged on crimes she’s already been judged on served punishment for.

      She’s only in this situation because the state screwed up. Not her. As enigma noted. Others have INTENTIONALLY and KNOWINGLY voted illegally and only got probation. Moses wasn’t intentionally committing a crime. She’s being punished for a mistake the state made. It was the state’s responsibility to ascertain that she was legally able to register. Obviously the state failed to do its job and she is being punished for that.

      The previous convictions are irrelevant. It was the state’s responsibility to verify her eligibility to vote and the judge claiming without evidence that she tricked the probation officer that are the real problems.

      1. Svelaz: you probably never read Tennessee Code 40-29-204, which appears to permanently bar those convicted of voter fraud from registering and voting…However, I have no idea as to whether Moses was told this by a sentencing judge at the time of her convictions.

        1. (or was she previously CONVICTED of voter fraud prior to this conviction, or did this just come up at the time of the present sentencing?

          1. Lin,

            She only pleaded guilty to two felony charges and three misdemeanors. She wasn’t convicted of voter fraud. There are no voter fraud convictions mentioned. The felony charges are for stalking and harassment.

            The state officer filling out her application for restoration of her voting rights certified that she was no longer on probation. A day later another official emailed the election office that she was still on probation. She wasn’t notified or knew when she tried to register. She had a letter from the state saying she was eligible before they discovered she wasn’t.

            I don’t know where those claims of voter fraud or having voted six times comes from. There is no record that I can find.

            1. Svelaz: I was merely addressing your previous statement to me, “Lin, the convictions for voting illegally don’t bar her permanently from voting according to Tennessee law.”

          2. Lin, correction, Moses wasn’t aware she wasn’t allowed to vote after pleading guilty to two felony charges. The state failed to remove her from the voting rolls after her conviction which explains why she was able to vote six times prior to registering again.

            She asked a judge if she was off probation and the judge said no. She believed the judge miscalculated her time on probation and went to her probation officer to confirm. The officer stated she was not and that officer signed documents attesting she was off probation. It was only after corrections officials noticed the mistake and notified the elections office that she was not eligible to register. She didn’t know this and registered triggering the violation.

            The judge claiming she “tricked” the officer is highly dubious because it is the officer’s responsibility to make sure she was eligible. Obviously the officer didn’t do that. This seems more about the state’s failures in not verifying her status and not removing her from the voter rolls. She’s being punished for the state’s incompetence.

      2. “She’s only in this situation because the state screwed up.”

        That is false.

        Her prior conviction for tampering includes a lifetime ban on voting in TN. It is her responsibility to know the consequences of being convicted of such a crime.

  8. So what’s the root cause of this problem? Sentencing guidelines? Probation laws? Election bureaucracy? Felony convictions? Systemic racism?

    As best as I can tell, her felony conviction had her permanently banned from voting in Tennessee. Would or should she have been informed of this during sentencing? This would mean she should have been removed from the voter rolls. When she applied to run for public office in 2019 she was informed she was on probation and could not appear on the ballot and that they also learned she had not been removed from the voter rolls.

    I admittedly do not understand sentencing guidelines. 6 years and 1 day seems excessive. However, that sentence would never have been imposed had she never committed the felonies in the first place. From that root cause, everything other problem flowed. They didn’t remove her from the rolls. According to her, she was never informed that her voting rights in Tennessee had been permanently removed. The bureaucracy did not do it’s job either.

    Fixing bureaucratic dysfunction is one thing, but how do we prevent bureaucratic malfeasance?

    This video and two others just obtained by The Federalist provide further evidence that, while officials continue to deny that irregularities occurred during the last presidential election, there were widespread violations of the election code in the large Pennsylvania county, followed by efforts to cover up those problems.

  9. To those apologizing for the poor-pititul-me Moses:

    Moses has *16* previous felony convictions. One of those convictions was for tampering, a crime that in TN carries a *permanent* ban on voting in TN. To double-down on her fraud, as the Court noted: She “‘voted six times as a convicted felon’ *after* her 2015 conviction.” (WaPo, emphasis added.) The Court also noted that she is eligibly for parole after 9 months.

    16 seems to me like a pattern. But, then, so too does 6.

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