Voters in Tennessee got one step closer Thursday to being able to take a selfie inside a voting booth at the next election. The Senate voted 30-0 in favor of a bill that would allow voters to take photos in a voting booth as long as they don’t take a picture of their ballot, use a flash or noise on their phones or take photos of others. The issue gained national attention last year when Justin Timberlake sparked debate over a little-known state law after he shared a selfie on Instagram that showed him casting his ballot at a church in Germantown, near Memphis.
Articles about voting issues in Tennessee.
Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission Puts New Voter Registration System First | Memphis Daily News
Before Shelby County voters get new voting machines, the elections administrator wants a new voter registration system to begin a badly needed upgrade of election technology. “Mostly, we really need a system that I don’t fear is going to crash and burn,” administrator Linda Phillips said. She and the five election commissioners are working on a request for proposals and intend to have the new voter registration system installed and working by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The election commission’s budget for the current fiscal year has $1 million available for such a system. “I really do not know,” she said of the exact cost of a new system. “The model in registration systems is moving more toward software than service. So a relatively low upfront price, but you pay an annual maintenance license fee. … I would expect it to be less than $2 million without question.
A 2015 law banning ballot box selfies does not violate Tennessee voters’ free speech rights, according to a formal opinion issued by the Tennessee attorney general. But the Memphis lawmaker who sought the opinion says he hopes to overturn the law after legislators reconvene in January. Justin Timberlake sparked debate over the little-known law in October, when he shared a selfie with 39 million-plus Instagram followers that showed him casting his ballot at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown, near Memphis. Timberlake, who lives in California but recently bought property near Nashville, said he had no idea he was doing anything illegal.
Seizing on recent federal court decisions that have struck down voter identification laws in several southern states, Tennessee Democrats on Tuesday called for their Republican counterparts to make changes to state and federal laws. Citing decisions by federal judges in North Dakota, North Carolina and Texas, which have similar voter identification laws as Tennessee, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, quoted Abraham Lincoln. “He said that government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The people cannot express their wishes unless they vote,” Cooper said, explaining that, in the aftermath of a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Indiana, several state legislatures, including ones in the South, successfully passed laws to “not only ID voters but to suppress the vote.”
Tennessee: NAACP says Tennessee’s voter ID law makes it harder for poor, minorities to vote | Times Free Press
Local NAACP officials say it’s getting harder for poor people and people of color to vote, and they point to Tennessee’s 2011 voter ID law as part of the problem. “This year, we determine if America is a place for everyone or a place for a few,” said City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who spoke at the NAACP’s State of the Vote 2016 meeting this month. “Some of the obvious things that should tell us how important voting is, is the effort to keep people from voting, like the new voting ID Laws,” Hakeem said. “We don’t want to give people looking to the past a free ride by not even going to the polls.” The website WalletHub says Tennessee’s black voters are among the least politically engaged in the nation. The website said its research showed Tennessee ranked 43rd among 48 states for black turnout.
A federal judge has ordered a halt to a vote recount on the controversial abortion measure, Amendment 1, pending an appeal by state election officials. U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, who ordered the recount in April, issued the stay on Tuesday at the request of Tennessee election officials who are appealing his decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Sharp cited the potential price tag of a recount to Tennessee taxpayers — approximately $1 million — in issuing his order. Should the Court of Appeals overturn his order, it “raises the possibility that public money may be spent on something which turns out to be unnecessary,” Sharp wrote.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery served notice today that the state will appeal a U.S. District judge’s ruling requiring a recount on the vote in a successful 2014 state constitutional amendment that made it easier for the state Legislature to enact new abortion restrictions. “We obviously disagree with the federal court’s decision,” said Harlow B. Sumerford, Slatery’s spokesman, in a statement. “Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee Court.” U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday ruled in a case challenging the 2014 amendment approved by a majority of Tennesseans that the method used to tabulate votes on the amendment was “fundamentally unfair” to eight Tennesseans who filed a lawsuit.
A federal judge has ordered a recount of Tennessee’s controversial 2014 abortion measure Amendment 1. U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday declared the method the state used to count votes for the amendment “fundamentally unfair” and in violation of due process and equal protection rights for voters under the U.S. Constitution. The “no” votes of the eight plaintiffs “were not accorded the same weight” as those who voted in favor of the amendment, the judge concluded. “As a remedy, the Court will order a recount of the 2014 Election solely in relation to Amendment 1, but defer ruling on the question of whether the election on Amendment 1 should be voided,” the 52-page ruling said. The ruling does not apply to three other amendments on the ballot in 2014.
The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would allow Tennesseans to register to vote online. The House unanimously passed a bill that the Senate had earlier approved. The measure allows Tennesseans to go online to register to vote or update their registration records. Applicants would be directed to apply on paper if their name, date of birth or other identifying information could not be confirmed with the Department of Safety. Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored the House bill, said there would be safeguards to discourage voter fraud.
Voter registration in Tennessee could enter the digital era if state lawmakers continue to advance a bill to implement a system already adopted by a majority of states. The House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would allow voters to register with the secretary of state over the Internet. If lawmakers approve the bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, Tennessee would join 31 other states that allow online voter registration.