Pamela Moses has been living in an alternate universe for the last few years. A kind of Orwellian dystopia where one wrong answer lands you in jail. Or maybe that’s just the reality of being Black in America.
Last month, Moses, 44, was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote. She received a reprieve a few weeks later, after the same judge who sentenced her released her on bond, citing new evidence that had not been previously disclosed to her defense.
In any case, Moses, a longtime Black Lives Matter activist in Memphis, Tennessee, told The Guardian, that what happened to her was a straight-up “scare tactic” designed to keep her—and people who look like her—from voting.
“It’s like, ‘If she went to jail for that, we don’t need to do that. We don’t need to follow her because we’re going to be in jail for six years, too.’ I would say it sends a confusing message to people who want to vote.
“Why should people be worried if they’re going to be prosecuted for doing their civic duty?”
Moses’ issues began in 2015, when she pleaded guilty to charges including stalking, theft, forgery, and tampering with evidence—a crime that permanently revokes a person’s right to vote in Tennessee. But Moses claims no one ever told her that her plea would lead to the loss of her voting rights. “They never mentioned anything about voting. They never mentioned anything about not voting, being able to vote … none of that,” Moses told The Guardian.
It wasn’t until Nov. 2019, when Moses tried to kick off a mayoral run and was asked for proof of her right to vote, that she learned that her rights had been revoked. She attempted to unravel her ordeal and filed an official Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights, along with her voter registration, with the Shelby County Election Commission. That’s when things got very murky.
Moses says that although she’s obviously relieved about her recent release, she believes she’s been “persecuted” for being outspoken about a number of issues.
“If you silence the loudest person that’s screaming, ‘Hey Black people, go vote, don’t vote for her, remove her from office,’ then you eliminate the opposition,” she said. “I believe, not only if I wasn’t Black, but if my name wasn’t Pamela Moses, this probably never would have been a case.”
During her trial, prosecutors claimed that Moses knew she was on probation when she filed her certificate, and thus she knew she wasn’t allowed to vote.
Judge Mark Ward said at the time that Moses was trying to “trick” the probation department.
“I was like, wow, I need to go to magic school or something. I’m the new Houdini. I’ve got that much power to trick somebody I’ve never met, never seen in my life, into doing something just by walking in the place? You know, no,” Moses told The Guardian.
District Attorney General Amy Weirich is trying desperately to distance herself from the case, particularly since the latest developments.
“The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) failed to turn over a necessary document in the case of Pamela Moses, and therefore her conviction has been overturned by the judge,” read a statement from Weirich’s office. “When reporters or political opportunists use the word ‘state’ they need to be crystal clear that the error was made by the TDOC and not any attorney or officer in the office of the Shelby County District Attorney.”
But local civil rights groups aren’t sitting down on Weirich’s negligence; they are urging the county commission to conduct a “racial equity audit” to explore whether there is racial discrimination taking place in Weirich’s office.
The Guardian reports that Moses is obviously stressed over everything that’s taken place in the last few years, and her children have equally suffered.
“I’m anxious. I’m worried because these charges haven’t gone away,” she said. “I mean look at how much money they spent on this. Just think about it. They probably could have built a school with all the money they spent prosecuting me over a piece of paper.”
The hypocrisy of Moses’ case is laid bare when comparing it to what appears to be actual voter fraud by failed President Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other white Americans.
Meadows, who about three weeks before North Carolina’s voter-registration deadline for the general election claimed to be living in a 14-by-62-foot mobile home in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina. To register to vote in North Carolina, a citizen must have lived in the county where they’re registering for at least 30 days before the date of the election, according to the state’s board. We know that Debbie Meadows stayed there a couple of days, but Mark never even visited. As The New York Times reports, “Both forms appear to have been filled out by the same hand; they were released with the signatures redacted.”
In 2020, Bruce Bartman, who is white, went to Pennsylvania’s voter registration website and signed up his mother and mother-in-law to vote. Both women were dead.
Bartman, who is white, filed for a mail-in ballot for his late mother and cast her vote for Donald Trump. Months later, Bartman was arrested and charged with perjury and unlawful voting. He pleaded guilty, admitting he made a “stupid mistake,” and was sentenced to five years of probation and barred from serving on a jury or voting for four years.
The local district attorney defended Bartman, saying at the time, “There’s no public benefit to him being incarcerated,” adding, “This defendant from the beginning has accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has paid the price for them.
There’s a strangely long list of white people who attempted to defraud the voting system in this country but paid a small or negligible price, versus the numerous Black people who are either gerrymandered out of their rights to vote or prosecuted for trying to.
The Guardian reported a story about a 72-year old Republican voter in Pennsylvania who was sentenced to probation after putting on sunglasses and trying to impersonate his son at the polls.
In a case in Arizona, a 64-year-old woman pleaded guilty to forging her deceased mother’s signature on a mail-in ballot; she too was sentenced to probation, with the possibility of 90 days in jail. And In Nevada, a Republican who voted using his dead wife’s ballot and then lied about it pleaded guilty and was also sentenced to probation.
“The reason why Ms. Moses’ situation has got the attention of the nation is because this sort of disparate treatment happens all the time,” said Rodney Diggs, one of her attorneys. “The disparate treatment between people of color and non-people of color. You can just see the differences.”
What’s good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander, especially if the gander happens to be a Black American.
Moses’ new trial date is set for April 25.