Republican lawmakers in GOP-led states are looking to impose new measures to restrict and penalize voter registration drives. Democrats and Republicans have fought for years over the guidelines dictating voter eligibility and registration. According to The Hill, the latest Republican effort occurred in the conservative-led Tennessee state Senate last week, where lawmakers passed a proposal requiring that voter registration groups receive training before being allowed to help people register to vote.
The bill, if passed, would impose fines on groups that submit improperly filled forms.
The proposal now returns to the state House and will likely pass, as a similar version of the bill passed recently. While Republican Governor Bill Lee has not indicated whether he will approve the proposal, it is backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett. Hargett, a Republican, argues that improperly filled forms create a hassle for local election officials.
“We want every eligible Tennessean to vote, and complete forms are critical to that opportunity,” Hargett said. “Voter registration drives are important to the process, but to be successful, we must make sure that citizens submit forms with enough information to be processed.”
He continued, “This bill will help ensure all who want to vote have the ability to do so and will enhance the security and integrity of elections.”
Nashville-based voter registration group The Equity Alliance, which focuses on helping African-American voters, argued in a statement that the legislation “is blatantly racist and mirrors the Jim Crow-era intimidation used to stifle decades of progress our nation and our state has made to ensure voting rights for people of color.”
The bill’s critics further say that the proposal directly attempts to curtail black voters from voting after voting drives last year boosted turnout among people of color.
“I would not be surprised if we see more and more of these types of bills being proposed particularly in places like Tennessee where you’ve seen really high turnout in recent elections among groups that have been traditionally more marginalized,” said ACLU staff attorney Sophia Lin Lakin. “It’s highly suspect timing that we’ve seen in Tennessee.”
Meanwhile, Republicans in Arizona have passed a bill in the House that would ban voter registration organizations from paying employees on a per-completed-form basis. If the measure is passed, paying employees based on how many voters they register could result in up to six months in jail.
State Representative Kelly Townsend is the Republican who sponsored the bill. She said that she has collaborated with Democrats on the language of the bill, which aims “to reduce fraudulent voter registrations.”
“They are not jumping up and down in favor of it, but I am confident they see that we are trying to tighten up areas that are causing problems,” Townsend said in a statement to The Hill. “We just disagree on the method.”