The House and Senate both approved Thursday legislation declaring that, once a voter’s registration has been accepted by county election officials, he or she cannot be purged from voter roles for a deficiencies on a registration form.
The bill (HB3456) was inspired by the Benton County election administrator questioning the registration of about 2,100 voters – about one of five in the rural West Tennessee county – because of failure to check appropriate boxes. In some cases, the voter had been registered and voting for decades without checking ‘yes’ beside a question asking if the voter is a citizen of the United States. (Earlier story HERE.)
The bill passed the House 93-1 under sponsorship of House Democratic Leader Gary Odom of Nashville and won 32-0 approval in the Senate with Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney as sponsor. It now goes to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature.
“This bill says that no one in this state can question your right to vote unless you die, move, change your name or commit a felony,” said Odom. “When you receive your voter card, no one can take it away.”
(Followup: See also Josh Thomas’ report.)
Press releases from the Secretary of State’s office and Odom on the matter are below.
Release from Secretar of State’s office:
Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins announced that legislation passed by the state House and Senate today will hold county election officials accountable for accepting voter registration forms that are deficient on the face of the forms.
Legislators began working on the bill after Mark Ward, the new election administrator in Benton County, discovered 2,100 voter registration forms submitted during his predecessors’ tenures that had major deficiencies. In most cases, the forms had either not been signed or boxes denoting citizenship or whether the individuals had been convicted of a felony had not been checked.
The bill holds those individuals who had deficient voter registration forms harmless while holding administrators of elections accountable for accepting deficient forms.
Ward and his staff sent out notices to all the affected voters requesting they correct the deficiencies. The majority of those who had deficiencies have corrected their forms. If the bill becomes law, it will not be necessary for the remaining individuals with deficient registration forms to take corrective action.
Release from House Democratic Leader Odom’s office:
.(Nashville) — House Democratic Leader Gary Odom passed a measure through the General Assembly Tuesday that will secure the rights of voters across the state.
The measure addresses a recent instance in Benton County where voters, who had been voting for decades, were asked to re-register to vote.
“We found out that there were more than 2,100 voters that were told to re-register to vote because a new administrator said they didn’t register correctly decades ago or for other arbitrary reasons,” said Odom (D-Nashville). “This bill says that no one in this state can question your right to vote unless you die, move, change your name, or commit a felony.”
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), passed the House and Senate Thursday morning and is now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.
“We want fair elections in Tennessee,” Odom said. “I think this bill goes a long way in ensuring that voters will not lose their American right to vote. They will not be disenfranchised or suppressed.”
The bill states that “no voter shall be purged due to a deficient registration form once the administrator has declared the person a registered voter.”
“When you receive your voter card, no one can take it away,” Odom said.