Even if Pamela Moses is guilty as charged, sentencing this Black woman to six years for merely trying to participate in democracy is not just cruel, it’s clearly designed to intimidate others from doing so.
February 6, 2022

Rachel Maddow’s account of Pamela Moses’ attempt to register to vote paints her as entirely innocent. The Guardian calls Moses' case “far more complex than it seems.” What seems indisputable is that Moses, a felon, tried to register to vote when she was ineligible and that Tennessee officials made a series of mistakes, including providing her with a signed certificate saying that her probation had ended, a requirement for felons who want to vote. Moses submitted that certificate along with her voter registration form.

“Such errors are actually fairly common in Tennessee, where the voting rules are extremely confusing for people with felonies,” The Guardian says. Nevertheless, prosecutors claim Moses knew she was ineligible to vote and tricked officials into giving her the certificate.

I’m a long way from buying the prosecutors’ argument but let’s say the worst is true and that Moses deliberately tried to game the system and vote. What the heck kind of sentence is six years for such a thing? Moses didn’t try to rob or assault anyone. She didn’t even try to vote. Whatever Moses' intentions, the elections officials’ incompetence is at least partly blame. That’s not counting the fact that there’s no good reason to permanently bar any citizens from the right to vote.

Meanwhile, as Rachel Maddow pointed out, Trumpers who we know deliberately committed actual voter fraud, have received almost no punishment. I think we can all guess what race they are.

MADDOW: I mean, a Trump supporter in Nevada fraudulently, knowingly, fraudulently submitted a ballot in his dead wife's name, pretended it was somebody else and then became the face of a nationwide effort by the Trump campaign to overturn the entire 2020 election because somehow his dead wife had had a ballot cast in her name, when he actually did it. He got caught - for him, probation. For all of these guys who were found guilty of committing voter fraud in the 2020 election, all illegally submitting ballots in the names of their dead relatives, in order to cast extra votes for Donald Trump, in all of their cases, probation or maybe a couple days in jail. For Pamela Moses trying to register to vote, while she was technically ineligible, even though she had been advised otherwise, six years in prison.

Joining Maddow was Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Nelson said Moses’ case “points to everything that is wrong in our democracy.”

NELSON: It's a confluence of racial discrimination and voter suppression. And we have to ask the question why do we have laws that prohibit people with felony convictions from voting in the first place? This case is emblematic of all the reasons that we need to do away with those arcane and draconian laws that ultimately disenfranchise 5.2 million Americans. And Black Americans in particular are disenfranchised at a rate of four times every other race combined.

And what you just pointed out, in terms of the individuals who are known to have committed voter fraud - blatant voter fraud, not because of misinformation, not because of a clerical or administrative error on part of the state, as we've seen in so many cases like Mrs. Moses’ but people who intentionally committed voter fraud - they are sentenced to probation. And individuals like Mrs. Moses, like Crystal Mason out of Texas, whose case was similarly troublesome in this way, like Hervis Rogers, another person out of Texas who was sentenced to prison because of a mistaken belief about his right to vote

It shows that there are two systems, there are two criminal justice systems, two sentencing systems when it comes to these issues. and you could not ask for a more stark contrast in our justice about in our country.

Actually, I think it’s worse than that. In an examination of lynchings in American history, The Guardian points out they were not just specific acts of sadistic vigilantism but a deliberate attempt to terrorize, control and subjugate Blacks, often involving dubious criminal accusations.

Fortunately, prosecutors did not try to kill Moses and she has a legal right to appeal. But the prosecutor sure looks like she’s trying to send a message of intimidation and subjugation. Maddow described the prosecutor as “press-releasing the heck out of this,” including the revocation of Moses’ bond, adding that “when the six-year sentence was handed down, the prosecutor has been crowing about this, with press releases as if this is something that deserves national attention in a positive way.”

I rest my case.

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