Thousands of voters in Tennessee were at risk of being blocked from casting regular ballots when early voting opened this week, as officials struggled to process a surge of new registrations ahead of Nov. 6 elections to determine control of the U.S. Congress. The delay disproportionately affected the area around Memphis, a majority African-American city, leading activists to charge the Republican-controlled state government has not done enough to protect the rights of young and minority voters. State officials, however, said they were simply struggling to keep up with a surge in paperwork ahead of Election Day. But young and minority voters could very well tip the U.S. Senate election between Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen and Republican U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn.
Democrats view that matchup as one of their few chances to pick up the two additional seats in the U.S. Senate they would need to take a majority and more effectively oppose President Donald Trump’s agenda, though recent polls show Blackburn ahead.
Similar concerns about slow or blocked registrations for new voters have been made in a number of states, including Georgia and Texas.
“These disputed registrations have been disproportionately in communities of color,” said Earle Fisher, a Memphis voter registration activist. “It reeks of voter suppression.”