Tennessee ranks 44th in voter registration, but during the 2018 midterm election the state saw a surge in registrations. Instead of providing greater resources to help election offices process the influx, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a measure that creates criminal and civil penalties against those who fail to comply with onerous requirements and who turn in “incomplete” applications. 

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 are incomplete. 

On May 9, 2019, ACLU-TN, ACLU and our partners filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. The complaint charges the new law violates freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, and the fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

 On August 30, 2019, we filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to stay enforcement of certain parts of the new statute, which would otherwise go into effect on October 1, 2019. 

On September 12, 2019, the court granted our motion for a preliminary injunction, blocking the law from going into effect while the lawsuit proceeds.           

Along with the lawsuit, we sent a notice letter to the state citing violations of the National Voter Registration Act. 

The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court. 


League of Women Voters of Tennessee, League of Women Voters of Tennessee Education Fund, American Muslim Advisory Council, Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, Rock The Vote, HeadCount, and Memphis Central Labor Council. 


Tre Hargett, Mark Goins, Herbert H. Slatery III, the State Election Commission, and Donna Barrett, Judy Blackburn, Greg Duckett, Mike McDonald, Jimmy Wallace, Tom Wheeler and Kent Younce


ACLU-TN: Thomas H. Castelli, Mandy Strickland Floyd

ACLU: Sophia Lin Lakin, Theresa J. Lee, Dale E. Ho, Sarah Brannon, Davin Rosborough

Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison: William H. Harbison; C. Dewey Branstetter, Jr.; Hunter C. Branstetter

Campaign Legal Center: Danielle Lang, Molly Danahy 

Fair Elections Center: Michelle Kanter Cohen, Jon Sherman 


Date filed

May 9, 2019


U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee



Case number

Case No. 3:19-cv-00385