Beginning July 1, people attempting to register citizens to vote could face fines if they turn in incomplete forms to the election commission.
The law, which was passed during this year’s legislative session and then signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee, is already facing lawsuits.
A complaint filed by the NAACP, Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities, the Equity Alliance and others calls the measure unconstitutional and says it puts undue burdens on groups who are attempting to register people to vote.
The law gives the Tennessee State Election Commission the right to enforce penalties on those who submit large numbers of incomplete forms — the law follows an influx of voter registration forms this past year from the Tennessee Black Voter Project that the commission had a difficult time confirming. The penalties are as follows: 100 to 500 incomplete forms face anywhere from $150-$2,000 penalty. And more than 500 erroneous or incomplete forms could face a $10,000 fine in every county in which the group collected forms.
The Tennessee Black Voter Project turned in thousands of voter registrations — some of which were not complete. The group has said they turned in incomplete registrations believing it was against the law to throw away registration forms with any voter information on them.
“Tennessee’s law is one of the most restrictive voter suppression measures that we have seen this year. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discourage and deter people from helping others to register to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a release. “There is no basis for the law’s draconian provisions that will chill basic First Amendment rights. We will use every tool in our arsenal to fight a law that would undermine the work of voter registration organizations and advocates across the state. Tennessee has one of the lowest voter registration rates of any state in the country — lawmakers should be working to address this and instead have chosen to exacerbate the crisis.”
Mark Goins, who oversees the election process in Tennessee, said the law was necessary to avoid another influx of incomplete forms.
“The taxpayers are currently being responsible for someone else going out there and doing sloppy work,” Goins said during the legislation session. “And so, this is just a way to get some restitution.”
So You Want to Hold a Voter Registration Drive in Davidson County
The Davidson County Election Commission provides the following information for individuals and groups who are hoping to register people to vote:
Visit nashville.gov/election-commission to find a list of the requirements for registering to vote in Davidson County.
County Election Commission Address List: If you register residents of other Tennessee counties, please forward those applications to the proper county election commission offices. Remember, in Tennessee, we register by county. If a Davidson County resident prefers to mail their application to us, please provide our mailing address: P.O. Box 650 Nashville, TN 37202
Voter Registration Quality Control Form: The election commission website points out the hot spots on the application that are often skipped. Thank you for checking over the form, to make sure the applicant has completed all required questions, as incomplete applications cannot be processed.
Tennessee Online Voter Registration System: https://ovr.govote.tn.gov/. For people who prefer to register online, please refer them to this secure site where they may also submit name and address changes.
GoVoteTN.com:. The GoVoteTN mobile app serves as an on-the-go reference tool, as residents may check if they are already registered, if they need to update their address, where they are assigned to vote on Election Day, etc.
Create your own “I'm registered to vote. Are you?” sign: An eye-catching way to advertise your registration drives — before, during and after. Take pictures of new registrants holding the sign and post on social media. Don’t forget to tag us: @davidsoncountyelections
Check the commission’s calendar for registration deadlines: New registrations must be postmarked or hand-delivered to either of our offices no later than thirty (30) days before an election, in order to vote in that election. (Tennessee Code Annotated. 2-2-109)
If you have questions, call 615-862-8800.
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