Black woman sentenced to six years in prison for registering to vote

Pamela Moses became permanently ineligible to vote after pleading guilty in 2015 to two felonies

Memphis activist Pamela Moses has been sentenced to six years and one day in prison for illegally registering to vote in 2019. 

Moses, 44, was convicted in November 2021 for the crime of registering to vote with a felony conviction on her record, Newsweek reports. She became permanently ineligible to vote in Tennessee after pleading guilty in 2015 to two felonies as well as three misdemeanors and was placed on probation for seven years. At the time, she was reportedly charged with tampering with evidence and forgery, perjury, stalking, theft under $500, and escape.

Pamela Moses (Credit: YouTube screenshot)

Moses, who founded Black Lives Matter Memphis, has maintained that she believed her voting rights had been restored in 2019. The sentencing judge accused her of deceiving officials. 

“I did not falsify anything. All I did was try to get my rights to vote back the way the people at the election commission told me and the way the clerk did,” she said during her sentencing hearing on Jan. 26, WREG-TV Memphis reported.

“You tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation,” said Judge Mark Ward. “After you were convicted of a felony in 2015, you voted six times as a convicted felon.”

Moses explained in an interview with The Guardian last year that her saga began after her 2015 guilty plea, and she wasn’t informed that she had become ineligible to vote.

“They never mentioned anything about voting. They never mentioned anything about not voting, being able to vote…none of that,” she told the U.K. news outlet.

Per The Guardian report, the court failed to notify election officials to remove Moses from the voter rolls. Moses would find this out in 2018 when she attempted to run as a candidate for mayor of Memphis but was informed by election officials that she couldn’t appear on the ballot due to her criminal record. 

That’s when Moses consulted a judge, who informed her that she was still on probation. Moses decided that the judge miscalculated her sentence, and she seemingly convinced her probation officer as much, because the individual incorrectly signed official documents stating Moses’ probation had ended, according to the report

Election officials received an email a day later from the corrections department informing them of the probation officer’s error and that Moses was still ineligible to vote due to her active felony sentence. She never actually voted, but simply registered — something she thought she could do.

“I was convicted of altering a document that I didn’t even sign,” she told reporters.

Moses was charged for falsely asserting that her probation had expired when she filed a certificate of restoration and application for voter registration with the Shelby County Election Commission, Fox News reports.

“Pamela Moses, a Black woman, has been sentenced to six years in prison because of a voting error. Meanwhile, white individuals who are known to have committed blatant voter fraud have only received probation,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement on Twitter.

Moses is reportedly being held in custody and is expected to appeal her sentence.

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