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Black Woman in Tennessee Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Trying to Register to Vote

A Black Lives Matter activist has been sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote after authorities told her she could. 

In 2015, Pamela Moses pleaded guilty to 10 counts, including evidence tampering, a crime that strips you of your right to vote forever in Tennessee. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Moses stalked and harassed a Shelby County judge between February and March 2014 by pretending to be a lawyer and notary public, and trying to file a complaint against the judge. 

Although she denies committing the offenses, saying all she did was complain about elected officials, Moses accepted the plea after sitting in jail for five and a half months on a $500,000 bond. She said she saw the plea deal as her only way out. As part of the plea she was given an eight-year suspended sentence, and ordered to serve the time on probation.

“I maintain I did nothing but complain on public officials that were corrupt. That’s all I did,” she told WREG.“I complained about them and I put it in writing.”

Moses also said, when she accepted the plea deal, she was never told her voting rights would be revoked for life.

“They never mentioned anything about voting,” she told The Guardian last year. “They never mentioned anything about not voting, being able to vote … none of that.”

In 2019, both the corrections department and the county election commission signed off on Moses’ voter registration application, certifying that her probation had ended and granting her full voting privileges once again. 

The problems began after her application was approved. An official at the corrections department wrote an email to election officials saying the probation officer had made an “error” on Moses’ certificate. They wrote that Moses was still serving an active felony sentence and her voting rights had not been restored.

So when Moses submitted the certificate as part of her voter registration, she was charged with illegally registering to vote. 

She was convicted of the charge in November 2021, and sentenced last week to six years and one day in prison.

Moses said she had taken all the legal steps and believed her voting rights had been restored when she submitted the certificate. “I did not falsify anything,” she said in court.

“I relied on the election commission because those are the people who are supposed to know what you’re supposed to do,” she told WREG before her sentencing. “And I found out that they didn’t know.”

Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward told Moses in court that she intentionally deceived probation officials into restoring her voting rights.

“You tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation,” Ward said in court.

Many believe there are racial elements to her sentence, as her penalty is much harsher than those in other recent voting fraud cases involving conservative White men. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund tweeted that the case captured how “there are two criminal justice systems in America.”

“Pamela Moses, a Black woman, has been sentenced to six years in prison because of a voting error. Meanwhile, white individuals who are known to have committed blatant voter fraud have only received probation,” the NAACP tweeted.

“They want to pick and control who the black leaders are in the south and they do it through voter suppression. They suppressed my right to vote,” Moses told WREG.

Moses’ attorney, Bede Anyanwu, said her client plans to appeal the case. “It’s all very, very disturbing,” the legal counsel said.

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