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Rights groups sue to stop Tennessee crackdown on voter registration

Organizers of voter registration drives and civil rights advocates are furious over a new Tennessee law that could lead to fines for groups submitting too many erroneous registration forms.

They say the measure signed last week by GOP Gov. Bill Lee, likely the first of its kind in the country, discourages minorities and college students from taking part in democracy. A federal lawsuit filed immediately after the signing said the statute, which makes it a misdemeanor to submit more than 100 incomplete forms, could force registration groups to scale back or shut down those services in the state.

But some also say they won't let it turn them around. "I just can't see us saying, 'Well, we're not going to any longer register people to vote,'" Terri Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, told The Associated Press.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett argued that tacking on penalties would be crucial for election security. His office said 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.

In this decade 25 states have passed voting restrictions, according to The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's School of Law. Experts say the pace accelerated in some states after the 2013 Supreme Court decision set aside a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that compelled states and counties with a history of discrimination to get advance Justice Department approval for any changes to election law

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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