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Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws

A democracy reform group created this leaflet in order to challenge a 1989 statute.

Judge voids Tennessee law against false ('literally Hitler') claims about candidates

In a campaign season when civil discourse seems headed to another record low, rhetorical excess has just been given a little extra boost.

For three decades Tennessee has made it a minor crime to put knowingly false statements about a candidate in oppositional campaign literature — one of the more explicit restrictions on political speech in the nation's law books. But last week a state judge said it was a bridge way too far over the First Amendment.

A prominent democracy reform group, Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws, sued and won the right to declare in print something hyperbolic in the extreme: That a Republican state legislator is "literally Hitler," the Nazi fuhrer who died in Germany three-quarters of a century ago.

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Dorian Spears

Meet the reformer: Dorian Spears, pushing the importance of counting all Tennesseans

Dorian Spears has spent her whole life in Memphis. After college she worked for a social services agency, on a mayoral task force to curb gun violence and as a county economic development official before joining Momentum Nonprofit Partners, which coordinates local philanthropic efforts, three years ago. As chief partnerships officer, her current focus is coordinating efforts to assure a comprehensive census count of Tennessee, especially its cities, to maximize government aid and political power for the state's Black neighborhoods. Her answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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Tennessee primary

Tennessee holds its state primary election.

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