The Tennessee Black Voter Project (TNBVP) and the Memphis Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP Memphis) are seeking a court order against the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC) after what the groups’ representatives say are multiple witnessed ongoing legal violations during a recent public records inspection visit to the SCEC Operations Center.
“By failing to follow Tennessee law, election officials are unlawfully obstructing the registration and vote of eligible Shelby Countians,” said Alex Wharton, counsel to the NAACP. “All we want is for the Shelby County Election Commission to do its job and help voters of all races cast their ballots without confusion, misinformation, or unnecessary barriers.”
According to the groups, the visit with election officials revealed that the SCEC has failed to notify all eligible voters about their registration status and failed to inform voters that they can “cure” – or correct – their registration forms and vote during early voting or on Election Day. TNBVP is concerned that some eligible voters could think they are not able to vote on Election Day.
At stake is 4,000 to 6,000 incomplete or rejected registration forms.
“The SCEC has also refused to adopt and implement a plan to allow voters to vote a regular ballot after curing incomplete registration forms on Election Day, which would violate Tennessee law,” said the group.
The TNBVP, through counsel, is seeking a court order to require the county to: send notice to voter registration applicants about the status of their registration, and inform those with incomplete forms that they can cure their registration forms and vote up to and on Election Day; adopt and implement a procedure to ensure that voters can cure incomplete registration forms and vote a regular ballot on Election Day; and provide the Tennessee Black Voter Project with a list of rejected or incomplete registrants so they can conduct outreach and voter assistance.
“Prior to the visit, the SCEC falsely accused TNBVP of submitting mostly invalid forms, rejected opportunities to cooperate with TNBVP or offer remedies, and refused timely access to public records,” said Voter Project officials. “ It was only after TNBVP brought a lawsuit last Tuesday that the SCEC finally relented and allowed TNBVP to review a sample of registration forms and notification letters.”
Like actions in Georgia, Missouri and Ohio, Shelby County election officials may block thousands of otherwise eligible voters of color from participating in the midterm elections.