Voter Organizers Must Undergo State Training
A bill signed into law in May will make it harder for activists to register new voters in bright red Tennessee. The law is expected to have its greatest impact on low income, Hispanic and African-American voters.
Passed by the state's heavily GOP legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Bill Lee, the law requires anyone organizing voter registration drives to undergo training administered by the coordinator of elections. Violators of the new law are subject to Class A misdemeanor charges.
Following the bill's passage, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the "strict, unnecessary, and irrational restrictions on community-based voter registration speech and activity."
Proponents of the law said it was meant to prevent fraudulent voter registration.
In its suit, the ACLU said, "this justification merely serves as pretext for a different, more insidious purpose: to inhibit successful voter registration efforts by community-based organizations."
During the 2018 election cycle, civic organizations across Tennessee "made a concerted push" to register thousands of eligible citizens, according to the suit.
"Much of this community-based voter registration activity took place among communities of color and other underserved populations," the lawsuit says.
Prior to the bill's signing, Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett said that improperly filled out and incomplete registration forms were a burden on local election offices.
"This bill will help ensure all who want to vote have the ability to do so and will enhance the security and integrity of elections," he said.
A spokesperson for Hargett told NBC News that the required voter registration training "will ideally be 30 minutes but no more than an hour."