Chilling Voter Registration In Tennessee

Lawyers' Committee
Apr 30, 2019 · 2 min read

In the November 2014 midterm elections, Tennessee had the worst voter turnout for the entire country at only 28.5 percent. Now, the state is trying to make it illegal for groups like Election Protection to help remove barriers to the ballot for the shocking number of people that don’t vote in the state.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed bill SB971/HB1079, which would create additional hurdles to the vote. It would also add civil and criminal penalties to any individuals or groups that conduct voter registration drives, which would scare most groups away from organizing events and limit the availability of voter registration assistance.

Last week, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with other civil rights organizations, sent a letter to the Tennessee General Assembly asking them to reject the bill. They didn’t. Now, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has signed off on it as well. So the Lawyers’ Committee filed a lawsuit against Governor Lee seeking an injunction to stop the bill from going into effect.

The Tennessee legislature’s actions are counter intuitive; in a state that struggles with voter registration and turnout, leaders should look for ways to encourage activities like voter registration drives, but these new restrictions will have the exact opposite effect. We aim to stop that with our lawsuit.

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