House Bill 1079: What it means for Nashville and the state of Tennessee

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Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

By MIKE PATTON | Nashville Voice

In government, there is always something going on. Some things you see and some things you don’t. The latest in things that you won’t see involves Tennessee’s Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

While those in the city are focusing on issues like who’s leading our schools and TennCare, Hargett has been hatching a plan of his own. The plan is House Bill 1079, which would allow civil and criminal punishment for those having voter registration drives.

In the March 22 issue of the Tennessean, Hargett wrote a guest column in which he lamented last-minute voter registration drives and how much money it cost taxpayers when it came to processing or reviewing incomplete or falsely-filed forms; this was Hargett’s explanation for his desire to get this bill passed, which, in his words, would make sure the “integrity of our election process is not compromised.”

He also said that the following would be included in the law per the Tennessean article:

  • Requiring supplemental voter registration drives of 100 people or more to be conducted only by a person trained on how to properly complete applications and protect confidential information;
  • Prohibiting organizations from paying individuals based on the number of voter registration forms submitted to the organization;
  • Requiring applications collected by designated people or organizations to be filed in a timely manner, within 10 days of receiving the voter registration;
  • Permitting the State Election Commission to assess a civil penalty to people or organizations that submit large numbers of deficient forms.

The penalties could reach up to $10,000 if a person or organization falls out of compliance with the proposed voter registration requirements and also would mean a deadline for applications to be submitted and the required training of the coordinator of elections.

Hargett also said in the article, “(w)e have worked hard to increase the number of registered voters in this state.”

While Hargett said he is doing this with good intentions, U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper could not disagree more about this potential bill.

“As a state with one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country, we shouldn’t make voter registration more complicated,” Cooper said. “If paper forms are too difficult, we should offer more digital options such as same-day registration. Or we should fix our confusing forms.”

And as far as the training, Cooper said this: “ More training is good, but what if the training is only offered in certain areas of the state and only on a limited basis? “

Cooper further said, “(w)e have seen this movie before. This is a blatant attempt to suppress the vote further in Tennessee.”

The vote will happen soon and if it happens, could mean more trouble and less participation in voting across not only Nashville but the state of Tennessee.

Contact your local representatives to voice your opinions and let your voice be heard.

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