The city of Chattanooga on Monday launched a website aimed at helping people with criminal histories regain the right to vote and expunge their records.
The website, restoremyrights.com, provides information on the expungement and voting restoration processes.
Anyone convicted of a felony in Tennessee after 1981 is ineligible to vote, according to state law, but in some circumstances, a felon's voting rights can be restored.
Typically, voting rights can be restored if felons have served their entire sentences, have paid all court fines and restitution, and are up-to-date on child support, according to state law. People convicted of certain crimes — like aggravated rape, first-degree murder or treason — can never regain their right to vote.
"This is a systemic issue that we can do something about," said Chantelle Roberson, a local attorney who helped create the website.
Mayor Andy Berke also pledged to help cover court costs for people who want to expunge their criminal records but can't afford the $450 fee.
He hopes to raise money from community sources to pay for the fund, and he is hopeful city money won't need to be used, he said. No money has yet been pledged or donated.
"Part of this is going to be how many people are we talking about who need this?" he said. "We don't know if the number right now will be 10, 20, 40 or more. If we can get people with applications who meet all the criteria, we do think that the community support is there to encourage that without, necessarily, the assistance of city government."
People with a single criminal charge on their records are usually eligible to have that charge expunged if the charge was a misdemeanor or one of a handful of felonies, and if the person has paid all court costs. The person must have also completed all punishment at least five years prior to the expungement.
Expungements can be completed for free if a charge was dismissed, if a person was found not guilty, and in a handful of other circumstances.
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