Volunteer State Removes Restrictions on Voter Registration Groups

Restore Your Vote Tennessee organizers
Gicola Lane, Ashley Caldwell and Gayle Schwarzberg with Restore Your Vote Tennessee

In a victory for voting rights, Tennessee lawmakers have repealed burdensome restrictions enacted after the 2018 election that imposed harsh penalties on community voter registration efforts. Campaign Legal Center (CLC), along with its partners, represented several organizations that conduct voter registration efforts in Tennessee in a lawsuit challenging the restrictions, and won a court order last fall, blocking them from going into effect.

For decades, historically marginalized groups have conducted voter registration drives as a means to empower their communities and amplify their voices at the ballot box. CLC is honored represent voter registration organizations working in Tennessee to help protect this critical tradition.

Rather than creating barriers to voter registration, states should be implementing pro-voter reforms that increase voter registration and promote participation in our democracy. This is particularly true in Tennessee, which ranks 40th among the 50 states in voter registration, and dead last in voter turnout according to the Pew Charitable Trust. While CLC is glad to see Tennessee correct course and repeal these unduly burdensome provisions, there is still much work to be done.

Background on Tennessee’s Law

The newly-repealed law was passed in the wake of a surge in voter registrations leading up to the 2018 midterm election.

Instead of providing necessary resources to help election offices process the influx, state lawmakers imposed onerous restrictions on community voter registration activity, and sought to punish those who were unable to comply with steep criminal and civil penalties, including for inadvertent errors.

The measure threatened to curtail or completely suspend the efforts of key voter registration groups across the state. After CLC and our partners filed suit, a federal court blocked the law. Today’s repeal ensures that community voter registration organizations like our clients will be able to continue to conduct their work without being subject to its onerous restrictions.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter
Molly is a Senior Legal Counsel on CLC's Litigation team.