T.I. votes despite being a convicted felon

McDONOUGH, Ga. (AP) - October 29, 2008

"It's a relief," said the best-selling rapper, who stood in line for no more than 10 minutes on Wednesday before entering a polling center in suburban Atlanta to vote for the first time in his life.

"This what it is all about, not staying up late and waking up early to vote," he added. "Now rather than just talking about it, I'm being about it. I'm leading by example, and it makes me feel a lot better."

T.I., who already has two No. 1 hits off his new album "Paper Trail" ("Whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life" with Rihanna), does have several federal firearms offenses and ongoing community service endeavors, stemming from his arrest last October for trying to buy automatic weapons. But his lawyer, Steve Sadow, confirmed that he can still cast a ballot because his sentence doesn't start until late March next year.

"Until he is sentenced in the federal case, he doesn't have a conviction yet," said Sadow of his 28-year-old client, whose real name is Clifford Harris. "Even though he is a convicted felon, he has a right to vote since he is not serving probation and hasn't started his prison sentence."

A spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State's office confirmed that T.I. was eligible to vote.

With an "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker planted on his black vest, T.I. signed autographs and took photos with several fans who were stunned to see the Grammy-winning artist in line to vote.

"It's inspirational what he is doing," said Nathirya Brown, 19, a first-time voter who was one of the first to spot T.I. stepping off his "Respect My Vote" campaign bus. He and the nonpartisan group Hip-Hop Caucus launched a nationwide tour in late July to encourage voters between the ages of 18 and 29 to take a more active role in politics.

"Just him being diligent enough helps others find out their status as well," Brown added.

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