NASHVILLE — Today Free Hearts officially launches its Fines and Fees Fund 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. This Fund will assist those disenfranchised in Tennessee by helping to pay outstanding fines and fees in order to restore their voting rights.
Free Hearts will hold a press conference about voter restoration and the Fines and Fees fund at 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5 at the Davidson County Election Commission office at 800 2nd Ave. S.
“The Casey Fund believes that we have the responsibility to do our part to benefit our communities,” said Ryann Casey, The Casey Fund. “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.”
Tennessee disenfranchises 420,000 individuals, the third most in the country, behind only Florida and Texas. 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.
“Electoral exclusion based upon unpaid fines and fees is no coincidence and is a form of voter suppression that impacts us all,” said Keeda Haynes, senior legal advisor for Free Hearts. “No one should have to pay off the State in order to participate in our democracy.”
“US citizens are guaranteed the right to vote,” said Kate M. Chaffin, Director of Online MSSW Program, University of Tennessee Knoxville, College of Social Work. “People who have been convicted of felonies are often prohibited from voting by imposing expensive fines and confusing stipulations that are a moving target for those trying to restore their rights. These attempts to limit citizens’ rights to vote are examples of unconstitutional disenfranchisement and suppression tactics that disproportionately harm women, people of color, and those living in poverty. By financially supporting programs that assist with fee and fine relief, we ensure that all citizens have full participation in civic processes that affect policies and laws in their communities, states, and counties.”