“How a large-scale effort to register black voters led to a crackdown in Tennessee”

Amy Gardner for WaPo:

What played out in Tennessee illustrates the messiness that has accompanied some large-scale efforts to draw new Democratic voters into the electorate, providing an opening for critics to push for stricter rules. The fallout is part of a national clash between the two parties over access to the polls — one fueled by energized efforts on the left to expand the voting pool and new limits backed by Republican lawmakers, who often echo President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.


There is no definitive account of what exactly went wrong in Tennessee last year. Republicans, who control all arms of the government — including the state and county election commissions — did not formally investigate the matter before moving to pass the new law. As a result, there is no official account of how many applications were faulty, the source of the problems and whether the Tennessee Black Voter Project was to blame.


Local elections officials said the vast majority of problems were basic omissions, often in a single field on the forms — not the more-egregious examples that raised suspicions of fraud.

Nonetheless, as the issue played out in the state legislature, lawmakers focused on forms with fake names, or those of dead people or ineligible felons. They also used unverified and inconsistent figures to emphasize the threat of potential fraud, which has long been illegal in Tennessee, to further their case to impose new penalties on forms with mistakes and omissions.

The new law has prompted two federal lawsuits accusing Tennessee of voter suppression.

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