A bill that had been in the works to penalize voter registration groups for submitting incorrect forms had just been signed by Gov. Bill Lee. In retaliation, the voter registration groups are suing.
The new law states that any voter registration group that submits incorrect or incomplete information will receive a fine based on the amount of incorrect forms. This comes after the thousands of applications that were voided for being incomplete during the 2018 midterm election.
The voting registration groups on the other hand, believe that the law is discriminatory against African Americans and other minority groups. They believe that the law’s actual purpose is to keep these voters away from the polls. Tennessee actually has the lowest registration rates in the nation already.
A group of these voting registration groups have actually come forth to sue just mere hours after Gov. Lee signed the bill. They’re arguing that it “violates the First Amendment through a web of unclear new regulations.”
“This law comes on the heels of historic efforts to reach people not yet registered to vote in Tennessee, including African Americans,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “This will no doubt chill the efforts of those organizations working to get more people registered.”
Reasoning for the bill
As stated before, there were thousands of registrations that were denied at the 2018 midterm election. Approximately 36,000 forms were submitted and half of them were denied, all from a group called the Tennessee Black Voter Project.
The groups main focus is to work towards getting more African Americans to sign up for voting in the state of Tennessee. The issue though is that most of their forms were incomplete or flawed.
This played a large part in the up bringing of this bill.
Voting registration groups who knowingly or intentionally file incomplete and incorrect forms will be the ones getting penalized. How they’ll be charged depends on just how many registration forms they submit wrong. Submitting just one hundred forms incorrectly can earn a group up to a $2,000 fine. Groups that submit over five hundred may be subject to a $10,000 fine.
Many voting registration groups believe that this bill is targeting them, trying to otherwise scare them away from recruiting voters.
“There are schools and grass-roots organizations and churches around Tennessee that have all been working to do what the state hasn’t been able to do — to address this crisis of low voter registration,” said Clarke.
It’s been argued back by the Tennessee Secretary of State that the incidents at the midterm elections weren’t evidence of suppression. Rather, the incident was evidence that something needed to be done.
“We want every eligible Tennessean to vote, and voter registration must be done responsibly and in a manner that does not compromise the security or integrity of elections,” Tre Hargett, the Tennessee Secretary of State said.