NASHVILLE —- Free Hearts officially launched its Fines and Fees Fund to assist those disenfranchised in Tennessee by helping to pay outstanding fines and fees in order to restore their voting rights.
“Tennessee disenfranchises 420,000 individuals, the third most in the country, behind only Florida and Texas,” according to a statement. “Many of these individuals have met all of their post-sentencing requirements but are prevented from voting due to owing outstanding fines and fees. By requiring that individuals pay a criminal-legal debt before exercising their right to vote, creates a two-tiered system of citizenship: One for Individuals who have the financial means to pay and vote immediately and another for poor individuals, locking them out of participation in our democracy.”
The fund is in partnership with The Casey Fund (Jurrell Casey of the Denver Broncos & his wife Ryann Casey), Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins, the Players Coalition, UT College of Social Work, and Nashville Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Office.
“The Casey Fund believes that we have the responsibility to do our part to benefit our communities. That includes ensuring that everyone’s voices are heard, because they deserve it. While we know long-term change takes time, this is our way to make an immediate impact. We are proud to partner with Free Hearts to make sure our community voices are recognized, through voting,” Ryann Casey, The Casey Fund.
“Electoral exclusion based upon unpaid fines and fees is no coincidence and is a form of voter suppression that impacts us all. No one should have to pay off the State in order to participate in our democracy,” Keeda Haynes, Senior Legal Advisor, Free Hearts.