NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Members of the Nashville-based nonprofit, Unheard Voices Outreach (UVO), have organized a demonstration in hopes to re-energize the conversation around felony voting rights.
“Our goal is to create a whole world and society that is free from felonism, where those who are released from jail or prison are empowered to live a life that is full and is free,” said Terrance Akins who was released from prison six years ago.
The nonprofit’s demonstration will be held on Tuesday, a day that also commemorates National Voter Registration Day.
“I decided that for me, that when I got back out, I was going to get my right to vote back,” Akins said.
Akins has been able to vote since being released, however, according to state law, those convicted of specific crimes like murder, rape, voter fraud cannot. Akins said he and UVO members believe in equity for those who have been rehabilitated and done their time.
“A person can turn their life around and make a difference,” Akins said.
Since 2019, some Republican lawmakers have worked to streamline the process for convicted felons to regain their voting rights. Representative Michael Curcio was part of those efforts and shared this statement with News 2 when asked about other felony convictions:
“While the Republican majority in Tennessee has worked tirelessly to make reforms to the criminal justice system, including streamlining the process for voting rights restoration for those who are already eligible, there are some crimes for which your right of suffrage cannot be restored. They include murder, rape, and other violent sexual offenses, among others. I do not see a day in Tennessee where individuals convicted of these heinous crimes would have their right of suffrage restored, nor would I support such a movement.”
Akins sees it differently.
“If you can change then anybody can change, we can’t count no one out.”
Tuesday’s protest will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Howard School Building, located at 700 2nd Avenue South.