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.