Tennessee’s Vengeful Lawmakers

In States, Voting On

The Tennessee legislature will soon vote on a bill that is deliberately intended to suppress black turnout, even though Tennessee is among the five states with the lowest voter participation.

The bill in the senate would create some of the most aggressive regulations on large-scale voter registration in the nation — like civil penalties for groups that unintentionally file incomplete voter registration forms. It would impose criminal sanctions on organizers who don’t attend training sessions run by local officials and on groups that fail to mail in voter registration forms in a short 10-day window.

Things like typos and missing entries are inevitable. That’s why there are already checks and balances; the election commission verifies voter information against state databases. This doesn’t create an unmanageable burden on state officials, nor does it require a draconian bill. Why don’t lawmakers make voter registration automatic, instead of making it much more difficult?

This is a clear attack on the successful efforts to mobilize black voters during the 2018 midterm elections. Close to 90,000 black voters were registered by the Tennessee Black Voter Project, led by the activist Tequila Johnson and the Equity Alliance, which partner with my organization, the Black Voters Matter Fund.

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