Tennessee bill untangling gun and voting rights restoration advances, but faces uncertain odds

Tennessee residents convicted of felonies can apply to vote again without restoring their gun rights under a bipartisan bill that faces some GOP skepticism as it advances late this session.

The effort by Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson and Republican Sen. Paul Bailey to untangle the two rights has cleared early hurdles but several remain in the annual session’s expected final weeks.

The proposal seeks to undo restrictions established in July, when election officials interpreted a state Supreme Court ruling as requiring people convicted of felonies to get their full citizenship rights restored by a judge, or show they were pardoned, before they can apply for reinstated voting rights. In January, the elections office confirmed that voting rights restoration would also require getting back gun rights.

Since July, officials have approved 12 applications to restore voting rights and denied 135, according to the secretary of state’s office. In the seven months before, about 200 people were approved and 120 denied.

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