Senator Jeff Yarbro calls for NO-EXCUSE ABSENTEE BALLOTS to let ALL Tennesseans vote by mail 👏🏽, rather than Sen. Gardenhire’s (clearly dangerous) bill to bring EVEN MORE PEOPLE TOGETHER.
Federal court just BLOCKED Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s “SCHEME” to criminalize voter registration after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000. Tequila Johnson of The Equity Alliance tells us they were told to turn in every form, and she wasn’t allowed to testify.
“This was about holding onto power.”
Check out the full PODCAST INTERVIEW on ITUNES.
Today a federal court has blocked the unprecedented Tennessee law passed this past session that restricts voter registration drives, subjecting people to unprecedented civil and even criminal penalties simply for turning in insufficient voter registration forms.
The bill was pushed through the Tennessee legislature by Secretary of State Tre Hargett after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered over 90,000 people in 2018.
A judge had just struck down Hargett’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by voter registration groups earlier this week, undressing the bill as a naked attempt to suppress the vote. READ OUR POST about that HERE, where we went into the back story of the ugly law. In that ruling, Judge Trauger echoed many of the criticisms levied against the bill when it was being debated in the legislature.
This was a big win for the voting rights groups.
BREAKING: Federal court has blocked #TN law restricting voter registration drives. Huge victory for our clients and huge thanks to this amazing team of lawyers @CampaignLegal @aclutn @ACLU @fairelections
— Danielle Lang (@DaniLang_DC) September 12, 2019
Here’s the federal court’s opinion in its entirety. A win for democracy. Hopefully it will hold.
“[T]hat voting is the ‘political right . . . preservative of all rights,’ is not just a comforting aphorism; it reflects … that, in the American system of governance, every decision to grant, preserve, or take away a right can be traced … back to an election.”
Watch a group of immigrants in Nashville turn out to vote for immigrants running for office in Nashville.
Election Day is September 12th!
A federal judge today said a lawsuit from the League of Women Voters, the American Muslim Advisory Council, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Rock the Vote, Memphis Central Labor Council, and Headcount challenging Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s new voter registration criminalization bill – which passed this past session despite outcries from protestors about the constitutionality – is allowed to proceed, striking down Hargett’s motion to dismiss the suit.
The bill came on the heels of the Tennessee Black Voter Project registering over 90,000 voters in 2018, a fact Hargett insisted had no bearing on his decision to push it through. A likely story.
NEW VIDEO: “KEEP VOTER REGISTRATION LEGAL!”
Despite protests, TN House Republicans passed #HB1079, which would make it the first state to criminalize voter registration efforts… just 6 months after TN Black Voter Project registered 90,000.#SB971 Awaits a vote in the senate. pic.twitter.com/Jmr3MD8lmY
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) April 16, 2019
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger expressed much skepticism of Hargett’s bill in the decision, essentially pointing to all the things those who spoke out against the bill warned about during discussion of the bill in the legislative session, including the chilling effect it would have on voter registration efforts.
As Judge Trauger says:
“Restricting voter registration drives in order to try to preserve election commission resources is like poisoning the soil in order to have an easier harvest.”
She wondered about some key elements of the bill, for instance why people who are getting paid to registered voters should be subject to requirements those working for free would not be subject to:
“The Act’s two-tiered system both lack justification in its own right and undermines any claim that its provisions are truly necessary.”
Judge Trauger also says there is “no basis for requiring registration workers and volunteers mandatory government training.”
She went on to talk about the punishments leveled by the bill against registration workers, saying that it “punishes a person for doing too much of something it requires them to do” by essentially requiring them to turn in forms even if they’re incomplete – something many, including Senator Jeff Yarbro, pointed out during committee.
Judge Trauger notes that the punishment for turning incomplete forms is not levied on a % basis, but on a total basis of over 100 incomplete forms, which means “the result is The Act holds an organization to an increasingly more onerous standard the more effective it is at recruiting new voters.”
Which is likely EXACTLY the intention of the bill.
The Bill also imposes an additional penalty in each county where the violation occurred, which Judge Trauger pointed out is especially onerous and flies in the face of the interest of the state in actually registering voters.
That assumes the state is actually trying to register MORE voters, but more and more it seems Tennessee is perfectly fine being at the very bottom in voter turnout and voter registration.
Judge Trauger then points out how vulnerable these voter registrations are financially, since they are not backed by large and wealthy institutions, and says that the grand total of the penalties amounts to them being “attacked from all sides.”
She calls it a “complex and punitive regulatory scheme”, instead suggesting public education rather than an “intrusive prophylactic scheme true bad actors would likely evade regardless.”
At the end, Judge Trauger uses the exact language used by opponents of the bill to allow the suit to continue, pointing out that it will have a “chilling effect” on voter registration – which we have heard from groups registering voters in Tennessee is happening already.
Conservatives on the House Local Committee killed a measure that would allow Tennesseans who qualify to vote by mail to do so immediately after receiving a voter registration card.
There are 14 qualifications in Tennessee for a voter to be eligible for absentee voting by mail, such as: voter is over 60 years old; voter is physically disabled or ill; or voter is a member of the military.
Under current law, those who qualify to vote absentee by mail must first vote in person. That rule could create issues for many new Tennesseans or newly eligible voters.
Hypothetically, if an 19-year-old Tennessean, who registered to vote, joined the military and was placed out of state before participating in an election, the 19-year-old would not be allowed to vote by mail. Or if a home-ridden person moved to Tennessee, the same result would apply.
Interestingly, this bill passed the very same committee in March and was moved to the House Calendar and Rules Committee, which schedules the floor votes for the House of Representatives.
When Rep. Love presented the legislation to the Calendar and Rules Committee, the committee chairman Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, District 14, opened the discussion by addressing House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin. Casada quickly re-directed to Rep. Love and inferred that they had spoken about an amendment.
So rather than getting scheduled for a floor vote, Rep. Love offered, seemingly at the behest of Speaker Casada, to move the bill back to House Local Committee to attach an amendment prohibiting college IDs as a valid voter ID — which is already state law.
On April 10 in the Local Committee, Rep. Love thanked committee members and Speaker Casada for allowing him to get the legislation in “proper form.”
While there is no smoking gun where Speaker Casada says he opposed the bill, the parliamentary procedure he appears to have orchestrated killed the bill.
How they voted: House Local Committee, April 10
Representatives voting against the bill (voice vote):
Rep. Dave Wright, R-Corryton, District 19
Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, District 12
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, District 11
Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, District 30
Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville, District 8
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, District 20
Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisberg, District 92
Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, District 31
Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, District 32
Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, District 1
Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34
Democratic members of the committee signaled support for the bill.
Any member may ask the clerk to record their opposition vote when voice votes prevail.