Leading Civil Rights Organizations File a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to Prevent the State of Tennessee from Implementing an Anti-Democratic Voter Suppression Law
On August 16, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its pro bono partner Hogan Lovells US, LLP, filed a motion for an immediate preliminary injunction to prevent the state of Tennessee from implementing a voter suppression law signed by the Governor in May. The law is set to take effect on October 1, 2019, but poses immediate repercussions. The law places arbitrary and excessive burdens on organizations and individuals that are engaged in voter registration. Moreover, organizations and individuals that register voters could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per county and up to a year in prison for each offense for errors or failing to properly comply with the law’s vague requirements. The plaintiffs in the court action are the Tennessee State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities, The Equity Alliance, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation, who are active participants in voter registration activities in Tennessee.
“It is my sincere hope that this lawsuit will make it possible for us to continue to take voter registration to the people—to register people on street corners, homeless shelters, churches, buses, night clubs, restaurants, or wherever we find them,” remarked Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P.
“As an organization dedicated to bringing new voters into the democratic process, The Equity Alliance is proud to stand with our fellow organizations to fight against attacks on voting rights for Tennesseans. Tennessee lawmakers are setting a bad precedent by criminalizing and politicizing voter registration. This law infringes on everyday people’s right to register eligible citizens in disenfranchised communities and should be overturned,” stated Charlane Oliver, president of The Equity Alliance.
“The new law is an attack on democracy and the right to vote. If implemented, the law will criminalize voter empowerment and disproportionately impact people of color and poor communities. We must resist this law at all levels with a sense of urgency,” said Sekou Franklin, co-coordinator of Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities.
“This law is an intentional and unconstitutional assault on voting rights. It is designed to discourage organizations from registering voters by employing intimidation tactics and imposing vague and excessive burdens. The law makes it so onerous and risky for groups to register people to vote that they decide it isn’t worth the effort. It is already having a chilling effect on the work of The Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere program and our partners. The creation of this law follows the 2018 elections where the state of Tennessee experienced historically high voter turnout, particularly among young voters and Black voters, despite its historically low turnout rate. It is a shameful attempt to stop voter registration efforts and to suppress voting among communities of color, college students, and other marginalized groups,” explained David Goodman, President of The Andrew Goodman Foundation.
“Instead of making it easier to register to vote, the Tennessee law makes it harder. And it does so, without any good reason, placing arbitrary and unnecessary barriers that will stop voter registration activities throughout the state. Unless enjoined, the law will have the most impact on communities of color and those with lower-incomes, who historically have benefited the most from the efforts of organizations, like our clients in this case, who work day-in and day-out to help people exercise their franchise,” stated Ezra Rosenberg, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The civil rights organizations that are plaintiffs in the suit filed their suit the day the Governor of Tennessee signed the law. The complaint alleges that the new law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, including the rights of free speech, free association, and due process.
The organizations are represented by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Bromberg Law LLC and local counsel Burch, Porter, & Johnson, PLLC, and Daniel Ayoade Yoon.
Read the full motion here.
About The Andrew Goodman Foundation
The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training young leaders, engaging low-propensity voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program partners with America’s colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a Freedom Summer volunteer and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered by the KKK in 1964 at 20 years old while registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.