Memphis voting groups push back against new state law

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of voters in Tennessee is fighting back against a law they believe will hurt voting numbers moving forward.

Filed on Aug. 30, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee vs. Tre Hargett aims to ramp up voter information and turnout in one of the worst-performing states in the United States.

Earlier this year, Tennessee enacted a new law imposing stricter rules on voter organization and activity. The law would fine groups doing voter registration drives for too many incomplete forms, among other rules. Secretary of State Hargett’s office pushed for the bill after noting that many of the 10,000 registrations submitted in and around Memphis last year by the Tennessee Black Voter Project on the last day for registering were filled out incorrectly.

According to the injunction, nearly 40% of eligible voters in the state of Tennessee are unregistered, ranking the volunteer state 44th out of 50 in voter registration.

The goal for the seven Tennessee groups filing is to restrain the law for now, while they try to inform and encourage potential voters without fear of breaking the law.

Voting at the national, state and local level requires a lot of information, along with a knowledge of the system that isn’t always easy to access.

Two Memphis-based organizations — the Peace and Justice Center and the Memphis Central Labor Council — are involved in the injunction, which hopes to make the polls more accessible.

They claim the new law threatens to criminally prosecute if groups don’t adhere to “a host of confusing and burdensome regulations” and that the law issues “absurd” fines for incomplete forms, scaring off potential new voters.

The groups claim that precedent is on their side, citing similar cases in Ohio in 2006, and Florida in 2012, among others.

If successful, the injunction would hold off elements of the new law, while a long-term route is decided.

The new law would go into place on Oct. 1 if the injunction is unsuccessful.


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