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Why did Tennessee's Pamela Moses receive a six-year prison sentence?

When Pamela Moses tried to register to vote — not cast a ballot, just register — she was criminally charged and sentenced to six years in prison.

Over the course of the last year, I've periodically marveled at the number of Republican voters who were caught committing voter fraud, only to receive light sentences. Nevada's Donald Kirk Hartle, for example, received probation. So did Bruce Bartma and Robert Richard in Pennsylvania. Ohio's Edward Snodgrass was locked up, but only for three days.

None of these GOP voters stumbled into the crimes by mistake. On the contrary, they requested absentee ballots on behalf of dead loved ones and forged signatures as part of their deliberate efforts to cheat.

They were caught and charged — U.S. elections systems are already strong enough to catch those who try to commit fraud — but judges didn't exactly throw the book at them.

These instances came to mind after seeing reports out of Tennessee this week. The Fox affiliate in Memphis reported:

Local Black Lives Matter activist Pamela Moses was sentenced to six years and one day in prison following her November 2021 conviction, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich announced Monday. Moses founded Black Lives Matter Memphis and was a candidate for Mayor of Memphis, but lost the general election on October 3, 2019. She was convicted in November of illegally registering to vote in 2019.

As Rachel explained on last night's show, Moses had a felony conviction in Tennessee that legally resulted in her not being allowed to vote again in that state. But she says that nobody ever told her that the conviction meant that she could no longer vote.

In fact, as The Guardian reported, her county elections board admitted in writing that despite her conviction, local officials never actually took her off the voting rolls. What's more, a probation officer with the Tennessee Department of Corrections even filled out and signed a certificate confirming her probation had ended.

But when Moses tried to register to vote — not cast a ballot, just register — she was criminally charged. This week, she received a six-year prison sentence.

The Republicans who actually cast illegal ballots in the name of relatives they definitely knew were dead each received light sentences. The Black woman who thought she was allowed to register to vote is set to spend the next 72 months in prison.

It's hard not to also think of Crystal Mason, a Texan who cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 election cycle while on supervised release for a federal conviction. She didn't know she was ineligible to vote, and her ballot was never counted, but Mason — also a Black woman — was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

If there's a defense for such disproportionate sentences, I can't think of it.