TN Voter Registration Deadlines is Oct 4, 30 days before Nov 3, 2020.
- Stage 2 -- Excuse to vote by mail required with age waiver
Online registration available.
Marquita Bradshaw for US Senate
• Tennessee: The Tennessee Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot "during the pendency of pandemic circumstances," in effect waiving the state's requirement that voters present an excuse in order to vote absentee.
The Supreme Court ruled that "persons with special vulnerability to COVID-19" or their caretakers could vote absentee, a position that state officials had already acceded to. However, for all others, the justices concluded that "the State’s interests in the efficacy and integrity of the election process are sufficient to justify the moderate burden placed on the right to vote."
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sharon Lee said the majority had erred because the trial court had not abused its discretion. Lee said all voters should be allowed to vote absentee, writing that those "with no underlying medical or health conditions should not be left with the impossible choice of voting in person and risking getting COVID-19 or forfeiting their constitutionally protected right to vote."
• Tennessee: A federal district court judge has sided against civil right groups seeking to ease access to absentee voting ahead of the state's Aug. 6 primary, ruling that the plaintiffs waited too long to bring their challenge, but the court allowed the case to proceed for November. The plaintiffs wanted the court to require that voters be notified and given a chance to correct any problems with their mail ballots and also allow third-party groups to collect and submit absentee ballots on behalf of voters.Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court to require Tennessee officials to comply with a 1981 law that restores voting rights to people convicted of a felony in another state if they have had their rights restored in that state. The plaintiffs argue that the state's Republican-run government has failed to educate affected voters of the ability to regain their rights. They also charge that the state is requiring the payment of any legal fines or fees, even though such repayment isn't required under the law.
Tennessee: Republican officials announced that they plan to enforce parts of a 2019 law restricting absentee voting eligibility despite a recent state court ruling that allows all voters to cast an absentee ballot due to concerns over COVID-19. The law requires that newly registered voters who registered by mail, a voter registration drive, or public assistance offices must vote in-person the first time. Black voters in particular have been more likely to register through registration drives in recent years, exposing them to a disproportionate impact.
Republicans passed this restriction in 2019 in reaction to a 2018 surge in Black voter registrations. The law added criminal penalties to certain components of voter registration drives in an effort intended to make them all but impossible to conduct. While the GOP subsequently repealed some of those provisions regarding registration drives after a court ruling had curtailed them, other provisions of the law remain in effect, such as one that makes it a crime to pay workers based on the number of registrations they gather instead of paying them hourly or allowing them to volunteer.
However, the GOP's decision to enforce this in-person voting requirement for these registrants is not the final word, as the plaintiffs in the case that loosened the absentee voting restrictions are challenging this mandate as well. Republicans are currently appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court, although the high court refused to stay the lower court's decision while the appeal proceeds.
• Tennessee: In a surprising reversal, Tennessee Republicans have passed a law that repeals certain parts of a 2019 law that they had enacted to add criminal and civil penalties to key parts of voter registration drives, which a federal court had temporarily blocked last September as likely to infringe upon voters' constitutional rights. Republicans passed this 2019 law after organizers registered tens of thousands of new black voters in 2018, since black voters are more likely to be registered through such drives.
For those who had registered 100 or more voters, the law had made it a crime to do so without completing a state training course. It also made it a crime to fail to submit completed forms within 10 days. At the same time, groups that submitted 100 or more incomplete or inaccurate registration forms would have faced civil fines, which could have reached a steep $10,000 per county (Tennessee has 99 counties) if more than 500 such forms were found to have been submitted in a given county.
However, the revised law still includes a measure to make registration drives less effective by making it a crime to pay workers based on the number of registrations they gather. Instead, organizers would have to pay hourly or rely on volunteers, which eliminates the financial incentive for registration drive workers to register as many voters as they can during their shifts.
Repealing the challenged parts of this law will likely render the litigation over it moot. By capitulating in this manner, Republicans have now signaled their own doubts about their prospects for success in court.