FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 4, 2016
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett calling on his office to allow voters wrongfully purged from voter rolls due to inactivity to cast provisional ballots.
“Federal law is clear: Voters cannot be removed from the rolls simply because they haven’t voted in a few elections,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “The state must now act quickly to do damage control and notify those voters whom they wrongly purged that they can still cast a provisional ballot. If the State Election Commission is truly committed to ensuring access to the ballot box for Tennessee voters, it should make certain those unfairly purged can vote in this election.”
While current Tennessee law allows purging of voters who miss several regular November elections in a row, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently struck down the practice of purging voters from the rolls based on their failure to vote in prior elections as a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.
Thousands of voters in Tennessee have been purged for inactivity. One recent investigation found that in Davidson County alone more than 19,000 people had been purged for inactivity over a three-year period, excluding people who were felons or deceased.
ACLU-TN’s letter calls Hargett’s assertions that Tennessee’s law is substantially different from the Ohio law recently struck down by the courts “wrong,” asserting that because Tennessee’s procedures for purging inactive voters are similarly “predicated on a person’s failure to vote,” they “will undoubtedly be found to violate the [National Voter Registration Act] under the Sixth Circuit’s reasoning.”
ACLU-TN’s letter urges the secretary of state to notify and prepare county election commissions to identify those voters who have been wrongfully removed from the rolls, offer them provisional ballots in accordance with Tennessee law, and make public announcements concerning the ability of certain purged voters to cast their votes.
A copy of the letter sent today is available here.
Voters who have been purged from the rolls due to inactivity are encouraged to contact ACLU-TN.