Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill through the state House on Monday that would fine community groups that submit incomplete voter-registration applications, an unusual move that the bill’s opponents have denounced as voter suppression.
Protesters swarmed the State Capitol to speak out against the Republican-backed bill, which has drawn condemnation from voting rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who say it would discriminate against minority voters in a state where overall turnout is already abysmal.
“It’s clearly intended to have a chilling effect on voting efforts across Tennessee,” John Ray Clemmons, a Democratic state representative, said of the bill.
Tens of thousands of new black and Latino voters were registered in Tennessee in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, but thousands of applications in Shelby County were disqualified by state election officials for what critics say were frivolous reasons. Republicans have cited the dispute as rationale for passing the legislation.