While everyone was distracted by legislation mandating more guns in more places, Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly have been not so quietly undermining free and fair elections.
• HB0009 requires a voter to present qualified photographic identification before voting
• HB0010 requires identification and proof of citizenship for voter registration
• HB0283 removes provision requiring mandatory hand count audits of at least 3 percent of the votes cast in an election
• HB0295 deletes provisions of the "Tennessee Voter Confidence Act" requiring purchase of precinct-based optical scanner voting systems and mandatory hand count audits
• HB0614 deletes all provisions requiring the purchase of precinct-based optical scanner voting systems only, including language referring to Help America Vote Act funds; deletes mandatory hand count audits of paper ballots created by such machines
• HB0629 requires persons registering to vote to declare political party affiliation to vote in a primary election
• HB0507 abolishes the Tennessee ethics commission
In addition, Republicans threatened to eliminate the state election commission altogether if Democrats didn't go along with a bill (HB0659) to expand the size of the commission and install a Republican majority as a way to get around four year terms of the existing Democratic majority.
Newly appointed Republican majority county election commissions across the state are also replacing election administrators with Republican operatives, which has already resulted in at least one lawsuit.
On those last two points we understand "to the victors go the spoils" and fair's fair. However, state law seems to provide for an orderly transition to a ruling party majority on the state election commission, and state law is mostly silent on the tenure of county election administrators and certainly doesn't provide for party affiliation as a prerequisite qualification.
Taken as a whole, it would seem that Republicans in Tennessee are looking to discourage voter registration, suppress voter turnout, inject big money into elections, make it impossible to verify election results, and install hand picked election officials to oversee their schemes. You gotta at least give them credit for covering all the bases.
So what is this all about?
It's one ingredient in a toxic brew being cooked up to elect a Republican governor and solidify the GOP's tenuous majority in the House, just in time for redistricting after the 2010 census. Then they'll gerrymander Tennessee Democrats out of business in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving Republicans total domination over state government and our Congressional delegation. There's no telling what hilarity will ensue after that.
It's way past time for Democrats to get busy.
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