The Criminalization of Voter Registration Drives
This past Thursday, the State Senate of Tennessee passed an outrageously anti-democratic bill. A bill that effectively criminalizes voter registration drives in the State. The Tennessee GOP dominates the state Senate controlling 28 out of 33 seats, so bills like this are very easy to pass. The new measure would impose fines and penalties on voter registration groups who submit incomplete forms to the state.
Laws like this are bad enough, but knowing that the enforcement of this measure will likely disproportionately impact non-White voters looking to register to vote is what makes it part of a larger pattern.
As written by The Tennessean, the unethical measure passed 25-6, with only one Republican voting against it. If signed into law by Republican Governor Bill Lee, Tennessee would be the first state in the country to “to threaten voter registration efforts with civil penalties for incomplete forms.” In case you’re wondering, the TN House passed a very similar, but different bill in early April. So this is a universal act by the state legislature to subvert democracy and shield the entire party from a political revolution.
Voter suppression cannot be ignored, even though the attention given to the issue has picked up since the election of Donald Trump. The findings in the Mueller report go even further in exposing how much of a threat suppression is to our electoral system. Though, the report focused on the outside threat and ignored the internal danger posed by state political hacks in office.
It is the belief of Black and Intellectual that there is a greater danger to American democracy that is internal as opposed to external. Though, the external threat is certainly immense.
The bill would fine voter registration groups who “knowingly or intentionally” submit incomplete or inaccurate registration forms. The amount of the fine is dependent on the number of “deficient” forms that are submitted. So groups submitting 500 or more incomplete forms could be fined up to $10,000! Submissions of 100 incomplete or inaccurate forms could be fined up to $2,000.
The Fear of the Black Vote
One of the greatest threats to the survival of white supremacy in America has always been the Black vote. It is a right of citizenship that racist political hacks have always sought to limit the power of.
Racial domination cannot be maintained in a system that also supports the growth of “true” democracy – universal suffrage. Seeing as how Black Americans are one of the most victimized and oppressed groups in U.S. history, the suppression of our political power has always been actively enforced. For generations, racists have schemed and plotted to find new ways of suppressing the Black vote.
What the Tennessee legislature is doing is part of a historic legacy. It cannot be viewed as being independent of past and present forms of suppression.
This bill to criminalize the submission of ‘faulty’ voter registration forms comes on the heels of the Tennessee Black Voter Project’s successful registering of 90,000 voters before the 2018 midterm election. The group, along with the Memphis NAACP, sued Shelby County arguing that election officials failed to give potential voters enough time to correct their registration forms.
So make no mistake, this bill is meant to target Black voters. It will hurt other groups as well, but the fear of the Black vote and of Black political power has reared its ugly head once again.
Tennessee isn’t the only state with a proposal like this. The state of Texas has a similar bill moving through the legislature that will criminalize registration errors.
Texas is also the infamous state where Crystal Mason was sentenced to 5 years in prison – because of voting. Her story not only highlights the anti-democratic perversion of voter suppression, but also the issue of felon disenfranchisement.
Make no mistake, there is a war on voting rights going on right now that is completely racial (and political) in nature. Black and Intellectual will continue to stand against these attacks and we will need your support.