Tennessee Law Threatens Registering Voters of Color
Tennessee has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the country, and a new law that just advanced in the state legislature will likely make it worse. The measure would fine community groups that submit incomplete voter-registration applications -- a clear voter suppression move. The NYT reports that the bill would apply to people or organizations who conduct registration drives, seek to collect 100 or more voter registration forms and pay individuals to collect the forms. Officials say it would not apply to individuals or organizations who collect forms using only unpaid volunteers. It would impose civil penalties on those who file 100 or more “deficient” voter registration applications, starting at $150 in each county where a violation occurred. Under the bill, any person or group that filed more than 500 faulty applications could be fined up to $10,000. It would also make it a Class A misdemeanor to establish a minimum number of registration forms for workers to collect. Given that Republicans maintain a supermajority in both the state House and Senate, there does not appear to be a lot of resistance among the GOP lawmakers. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of protestors from swarming the state capitol. Tens of thousands of new Black and Latinx voters registered in Tennessee leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, but thousands of applications in Shelby County were disqualified by state election officials for frivolous reasons. This latest law is sure to have a chilling impact on these same communities, and it’s just another repercussion of the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section V of the Voting Rights Act. More here.