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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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For activist Pamela Moses, the journey continues to win back her right to vote

With Pamela Moses acting as her own attorney, a Shelby County Circuit Court judge this week put the local Black Lives Matter founder on a path to challenge a life-long voting ban in front of a judicial panel appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

In the June 29 court hearing, Corbin-Johnson determined that a state statute less than a year old applied to Moses’ petition. That provision assigns a petition such as Moses’ to a special three-judge trial court.

Moses declined to comment on Friday. Karen Spencer McGee, a social justice activist and staunch supporter, said Moses still was deciding whether to represent herself or hire counsel for the upcoming court session.

What has become a voting-rights odyssey for Moses dates back several years. In 2015, she pleaded guilty to multiple charges: tampering with evidence, forgery and perjury, stalking, theft under $500 and escape.

The permanent revocation of her right to vote was tethered to the charge of tampering with evidence. Moses maintains she was not told that she would permanently lose her right to vote by entering the guilty plea.

In 2019, Moses decided to run for mayor and filed for the restoration of her voting rights, thinking that her probation on the 2015 guilty plea was over. Moses continues to maintain that she did not intentionally try to vote illegally, but relied on signed documentation by Tennessee Department of Corrections staff.

In January, Moses, who was charged with illegally registering to vote, was given a six-year sentence after a jury trial. She served three months before the sentence was overturned. Subsequently, she was granted a new trial, pointing to evidence that the faulty-information scenario had not been brought forward for her initial trial.

Later, Shelby County Attorney General Amy Weirich dismissed charges. However, that did not get Moses her voting rights back.

Supporters and activists have staged several rallies on behalf of Moses over the past few weeks. Many were hopeful that Wednesday’s hearing would end her disenfranchisement.

“We were really hoping that everything would finally be over,” said McGee, aka Momma Peaches. “We had a rally just this week. The momentum built from the time of P. Moses’ release was so strong that we felt restoration of voting rights would follow the dropped charges.”

McGee and other activists helped to bring Moses’ case to national attention, emphasizing the length of her prison sentence compared to “white, Republican men” convicted of voting for dead relatives and casting multiple ballots.

“We were all really disappointed that this case was not over already,” said Brandon Price, a community activist. “Moses has already been through so much. … Pam is free now, but the mental and emotional scars are still there.”

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