Democrats push for secure, convenient elections

12-3-13 Rep

Rep. Raumesh Akbari

Tennessee is dead last in voter participation, and Democrats have put forth an agenda to make voting secure, convenient and meaningful.

“Tennessee ranks at the bottom in almost every measure of democratic participation,” House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “It’s a sad distinction to be found dead last in democracy. Today we’re setting an agenda to make voting in Tennessee more secure, more convenient and more meaningful.”

Tennessee ranked 50th for voter turnout in a Pew study of election performance by state; 45th in the Dubious Democracy Index by Fair Vote, which assesses elections for competitiveness and transparency; and 48th by the Electoral Integrity Project, which weighs a variety of factors, including electoral procedures, campaign finance and media coverage.

Among the proposals is a bill by state Sen. Jeff Yarbro to require a financial disclosure on ads placed on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. SB 1635 would require disclosure on social media in the same manner state law already requires disclosures on paid advertisements in the mail and on television.

“A Twitter account that posed as one of the two major parties in Tennessee was recently discovered to be a Russian account,” state Sen. Jeff Yarbro said. “People deserve to know who’s trying to influence their elections, whether it’s a local candidate or a foreign government. There’s no reason not to require disclosure on social media in the same way we require it in the mail and on television.”

Another bill to make voting more secure would require paper ballots following efforts to hack election systems.

To make voting more convenient, Democrats are proposing legislation to lengthen the voter registration period to 15 days before an election, automatically mail a new photo ID to anyone required to surrender a license, allow student IDs for voting, automatic registration, early registration for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register when they obtain a driver license, and mail-in ballots for seniors.

To make voting more meaningful, Democrats are proposing legislation to require a transparent redistricting process and to restore voting rights for ex-offenders who have completed a sentence.

“Nothing is more sacred than the right to vote,” state Rep. Raumesh Akbari said. “Every Tennessean should have the same access to the ballot box, and with the Volunteer State ranking at the bottom of measure after measure, we need both parties to step forward with solutions.”