Who Is Pamela Moses? Black Woman Sentenced to Prison for Trying To Vote

Memphis activist Pamela Moses was sentenced to six years and one day in prison on Monday, having been convicted in November 2021 of illegally registering to vote in 2019.

Moses, 44, a Black woman and Black Lives Matter activist, had 16 prior felony convictions and attempted to register to vote when she was ineligible and on probation, according to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

She pleaded guilty on April 29, 2015 to tampering with evidence and forgery, both felony convictions, and perjury, stalking, theft under $500 and escape, all misdemeanor convictions. She was placed on probation for seven years.

Her felony convictions made her permanently ineligible to vote in the state, according to the District Attorney's office.

Moses has argued that she believed her voting rights had been restored when she looked into voting in 2019.

"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 January 26, WREG-TV Memphis reported.

Judge Mark Ward, who sentenced Moses, accused her of deceiving officials.

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

Moses, who founded Black Lives Matter Memphis, claimed in an interview with The Guardian last year that when she pleaded guilty in 2015 to her felony conditions, 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 news outlet.

The Guardian obtained a letter showing the court failed to send election officials the documents needed to remove her from the voter rolls.

In 2019, when she attempted to run as a candidate for mayor of Memphis, election officials told her that her criminal record meant she couldn't appear on the ballot. After probing further, they found she had not been removed from the rolls.

After consulting a judge, Moses was informed that she was still on probation.

Moses then consulted with an officer at her local probation office as she believed the judge had miscalculated her sentence. That officer then incorrectly signed official documents stating that her probation had ended.

A day later, election officials received an email from the corrections department that a probation officer had made an error in signing her certificate, noting that Moses was, in fact, ineligible to vote as she was still serving an active felony sentence.

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

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund decried Moses' sentence in a statement on Thursday.

"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 Twitter statement read.

The group, which describes itself as America's premier organization fighting for racial justice, added: "There are two criminal justice systems in America."

Pamela Moses mugshot
Memphis activist Pamela Moses was sentenced on Monday to six years and one day in prison, after she was convicted in November 2021 of illegally registering to vote in 2019.  Shelby County Sheriff’s Office / Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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