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Balance of Power

Tennessee Republicans ready tight regulation of voter registration

The Republicans in charge in Tennessee are galvanizing behind a bill that would set new civil and criminal penalties for voter registration groups that submit too many inaccurate or incomplete registration forms.

GOP Secretary of State Tre Hargett is behind the measure in the name of "enhancing election security," and committees in both halves of the Republican-run legislature plan to start advancing it next week. Opponents see an effort at voter suppression in a state that already has among the lowest turnout rates in the country.

"By penalizing civic participation groups for unintentional inaccuracies in their constituents' completion of registration forms, the bill tramples on cherished First Amendment rights and would undeniably result in less voter registration activity," the Campaign Legal Center says.

The Nashville Tennessean reports the bill would require all participants in voter registration efforts to complete a new state-run training course or else face criminal prosecution. It would also require voter registration forms to be submitted by registered mail within 10 days of completion. And financial penalties would be imposed on individuals or civic engagement groups that submit 100 or more inaccurate or incomplete forms.

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