Tennessee is seeing a surge in ex-offenders seeking a restoration of their voting rights. Tennessee's WBIR reported this year the state could double the number of felons who may see their voting rights restored.

The numbers could skyrocket even further if the lawsuit brought by the ACLU Voting Rights Project last February succeeds. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee's felon voting rights law, which does not automatically restore rights after individuals complete their sentence. Ex-offenders are also banned from voting if they owe child support or court-ordered restitution.

"Reports show that, nationally, over 50 percent of criminal defendants are indigent at the time of sentencing. Therefore, requiring a person with a criminal conviction to pay a fee before restoring their right to vote is nothing more than a modern day poll tax," said Nancy Abudu, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, in a February press release.

WBIR reported that Tennessee is one of 11 states that does not automatically restore those rights when an individual completes his or her sentence and any probation and parole. Approximately 90,000 citizens are barred from voting in Tennessee. More than 5.3 million are barred nationwide, according to the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

Some observers link the increased pursuit of voting rights to a presidential election that is already seeing historic turnouts among African Americans, citing that African Americans are, disproportionately arrested, charged and convicted of crimes, and thus are a major part of the surge to get their rights restored.

WBIR reported that many other states are seeing similar activity:

Anecdotal evidence shows similar surges in other states. Rhode Island, Maryland and Florida all recently loosened restrictions on ex-offender voting, prompting increased public attention and targeted registration drives, said Marc Mauer, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project.