Tennessee lawmakers are trying to make it harder for groups like nonprofits, churches, businesses and other organizations to register voters.
SB 971/HB 1079 would create a burdensome list of requirements that groups must meet in order to hold voter registration drives and would threaten these groups with criminal and civil penalties the registration forms they submit are not complete. The threat of such penalties will chill voter registration efforts in our state and make Tennessee the only state that penalizes the submission of forms that contain mistakes.
Voter registrations drives have long been a way for communities that are historically disenfranchised — including students, immigrants, people of color and the elderly — to empower themselves and gain access to the ballot box. Approximately 10% of American voters register at registration drives, many of which are often held at schools, hospitals and college campuses. Making it harder for civic-minded groups to assist these voters would only result in these communities’ voices not being heard in our elections.
Tennessee already has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the country. Lawmakers should focus on supporting legislation that will ensure that our elections can truly reflect the will of the people — not wasting time on bills that would create barriers to voter registration drives in our state.