TN flunks ballot ‘accessibility,’ rates 49th overall in voter rights review

News release from Center for American Progress Action Fund (a national “progressive” advocacy organization)
Washington, D.C. — Tennessee ranks 49th in a new report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund that gives each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia an overall rank and examines and assigns grades for the categories of accessibility of the ballot, representation in state government, and influence in the political system.

The authors’ analysis reveals that these issues must be addressed in sum, not in silos. The “Health of State Democracies” report gives Tennessee an F in accessibility, a D- in representation, and a D in influence.

Each state, including Tennessee, has areas for significant improvement, with all states specifically needing to address disproportionate representation—no matter where they finish in the rankings. The report also provides recommendations for improvement for Tennessee, including modernizing voter registration, removing structural barriers to full participation, and mitigating the influence of money in the political system.

The report evaluates Tennessee on measures such as voting laws, redistricting outcomes, campaign finance laws, fair courts, and others as vital, interconnected pieces of a state democracy. There are 22 factors in the three categories, which together paint a much clearer picture of the actual environment within Tennessee than when measured alone.

“Too often in this country, access to the freedoms and privileges guaranteed under the Constitution are determined by ZIP code,” said Michele Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Whether it is access to voting rights, representation in government, or the outsized influence of money in our political system, the opportunity to interact with and participate in democracy is available to some but blocked for many. There are, however, many factors that make up a healthy democracy that should be evaluated in sum, not in silos, if solutions are going to have an overall effect.”

While specific recommendations vary greatly by state, one significant overall finding is that states that rank better on accessibility of the ballot have significantly higher voter turnout, and states previously covered by Voting Rights Act preclearance requirements perform poorly in accessibility of the ballot. Even though 15 states receive a failing grade in accessibility of the ballot—a far higher failure rate than in any other category—this finding suggests that limiting barriers to voting means more people will exercise the right.

Note: The Tennessee-specific page is HERE.