Voter suppression lawsuit between activists and election commission continues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A legal battle between voting rights activists and the Shelby County Election Commission rages on.

A key hearing in Chancery Court was postponed Wednesday afternoon. The subject of the hearing was a lawsuit accusing the Shelby County Election Commission of suppressing voters.

“When you start talking about voter suppression, one suppressed vote is one too many,” Earle Fisher, with Up The Vote 901, said.

The suit was filed against the commission by the NAACP Memphis chapter and the Tennessee Black Voter Project. It concerns 4,000 to 6,000 incomplete or rejected registration forms.

“There could be an incomplete address or zip code or you didn’t check Ms. or Mr.,” Alexander Wharton, the attorney for TN Black Voter Project, said.

The suit demands the commission send those people letters, telling them they still have time to fix the form. The plaintiffs say it’s state law but hasn’t been done.

The Election Commission says letters are going out. But some of the registration forms are tough to process.

“Some of them are so incomprehensible we can’t send a letter. I mean we looked at forms yesterday that had no name,” Linda Phillips, with the Shelby County Election Commission, said. “We are not discriminating against voters. We are not suppressing voters.”

The Tennessee Black Voter Project also wants a list of people with rejected or incomplete voter registrations so that the project can reach out to those people and help them get registered.

“I don’t know that our system is capable of producing that,” Phillips said.

A judge could rule on every demand in the suit on Thursday morning.