“The untold story of how a US woman was sentenced to six years for voting”

Sam Levine deep dive for The Guardian:

It was the morning after Labor Day and Pamela Moses was in a rush.

All summer, the outspoken activist had been feuding with election officials in Memphis, Tennessee. She wanted to get her name on the ballot for Memphis’s 2019 mayoral election, even gathering enough signatures to do so. But officials said she could not run – a prior felony conviction made her ineligible to seek office.

But what unfolded over just a few hours that day on 3 September 2019 would upend her life. It would lead to a sudden arrest months later at O’Hare airport in Chicago and culminate in a six-year prison sentence for voter fraud.

Her case would go on to touch a nerve in the US and cause a national outcry. While there’s no comprehensive data on voter fraud prosecutions based on race, it was one of several recent examples in which Black defendants like Moses have faced long criminal sentences for voting errors, while white people have faced little punishment for more fraud. Long after the abolition of poll taxes and literacy tests, Black Americans still face significant scrutiny for trying to exercise their right to vote.

To make matters worse there is a byzantine bureaucracy in Tennessee and other US states, which can make it nearly impossible for people with felony convictions to vote again. The system has allowed officials to block people from voting for owing small sums of money and prosecutors to bring charges against others who make good-faith mistakes about their voting eligibility.

But at the center of the Moses case was a relatively simple question: should someone who makes a voting mistake face serious criminal charges?

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