U.S. Judge Blocks Tenn. Law Attacking Rights of Voter Registration Groups

NASHVILLE — The Equity Alliance applauded a federal judge’s decision to block a Tennessee law restricting the rights of voter registration groups from taking effect.

In her opinion granting an injunction, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger wrote: “There is simply no basis in the record for concluding that the Act will provide much benefit to Tennesseans, and even less reason to think that any benefit will come close to outweighing the harms to Tennesseans (and non-Tennesseans) who merely wish to exercise their core constitutional rights of participating in the political process by encouraging voter registration.”

The Equity Alliance issued a statement after her ruling:

We are overjoyed by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger’s decision to block Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s law that unfairly imposes criminal and civil penalties on groups who engage in constitutionally protected voter registration. Judge Trauger saw this baseless and unconstitutional law for what it truly is: voter suppression in its ugliest form. 

This is a giant win for voting rights advocates who fight to ensure that every citizen has a voice. 

Make no mistake about it, this victory is a result of the unstoppable work of The Equity Alliance, a Black-led organization, and the Tennessee Black Voter Project, which submitted about 91,000 voter registration forms for Black and brown Tennesseans in 2018. We are relentless and unapologetic in our pursuit of a fair and just America for all Black citizens. 

Having persevered through 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and oppressive segregation, black people’s ability to vote and exercise free agency in this country is directly tied to our full personhood, dignity and humanity.

Today’s victory underscores the need for The Equity Alliance to fight back against attacks on our voting rights. We hope Secretary of State Tre Hargett reads every word of this opinion and heeds the court’s advice to make voter registration simpler in Tennessee and to work with voter registration groups who are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

We applaud Judge Trauger’s ruling and look forward to getting back to the necessary work of registering Black voters and advocating for their voting rights.

U.S. Judges Denies Tennessee’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Voter Suppression Law

The Equity Alliance Applauds Opinion

NASHVILLE – The Equity Alliance, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law targeting voter registration drives with penalties and fines, issued a statement today following U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger’s ruling against the state of Tennessee. In a 63-page opinion, Judge Trauger denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case — allowing the case to proceed.

Charlane Oliver, president and co-founder of The Equity Alliance:

Judge Aleta Trauger’s ruling in favor of proceeding with The Equity Alliance’s lawsuit against Secretary Tre Hargett’s voter supression law affirms the argument we’ve been making all along. If additional training is needed, the state should have produced new instructions for groups that believe in the power of voter registration. The state should be investing its resources in improving our low voter participation rates instead of suppressing voters. Tennesseans do not want or need a burdensome law that slaps well-meaning groups like The Equity Alliance with irrational $10,000 fines or puts our organizers in jail for making mistakes on forms. While today’s ruling against the state is a victory, we know there is a long path ahead for this lawsuit to prevail and for voter registration groups to receive justice. 

2019 Nashville Voter Guide is now available!

Nashville will soon choose candidates to lead our city for the next four years. And as all the candidates will tell you: our city’s future is at stake and YOU have the power to decide which candidate’s vision is best for your family and our community. 

Early voting starts July 12 at the Howard Office Building downtown and goes until July 27. Election Day is Aug. 1.  

To help with your voting decision, The Equity Alliance is proud to provide you our 2019 Nashville Voter Guide — a free, nonpartisan, public resource for Nashville voters to make an informed choice on Election Day. 

In this guide, you’ll find unbiased candidate profiles, websites where you can find more candidate information, a description of what each elected office does, polling locations and hours, voter ID requirements, a description of Davidson County’s new voting machines, a reminder to fill out your Census form next year and much more. 

Visit www.NashvilleVoterGuide.com NOW to download your FREE copy. 

Thank you to our community partners, DENOR Brands and Public Relations and 529 Graphics, our volunteers and distribution partners for making the 2019 Nashville Voter Guide a quality product and resource for our community. 

If you find this information helpful, consider supporting The Equity Alliance with a contribution

Read it. Download it. Share it with others.

The Equity Alliance to Launch Black Citizenship in Action, a modern-day citizenship school for Black liberation

Happy Juneteenth! Today is our Independence Day! A day to celebrate and reflect.

The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the United States on January 1, 1863, but it was not until June 19, 1865, two and a half years later, that word reached Galveston, Texas that slavery had been abolished.

While this country has come a long way since June 1865, the work to ensure that Black people can exercise our full rights as citizens to shape this democracy to its fullest potential still remains.

That’s why today we are proud to announce our partnership with 12 Black-led organizations across the country and our national partners, Black Progressive Action Coalition (BPAC) and BlackPAC, to launch Black Citizenship In Action.

Over the next two years in states across the country, from Michigan to California and from Louisiana to Ohio, local partners like The Equity Alliance will hold local events that deepen our community’s shared understanding of our past and present, our rights as citizens, sharpen our analysis of the political landscape in which we are operating, and collectively develop winning strategies to demand a country that values our lives and strives toward justice and equality.


Join us TODAY to launch Black Citizenship in Action at the Juneteenth Celebration

The Equity Alliance Aims to Spotlight Unsung Leaders at Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch

Saturday, July 20, 2019  |  11:00 AM – 1 PM   |   Rocketown

Prepare to be wowed at this year’s Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch for an inspiring, high-energy fundraiser hosted by 92Q’s radio personality Sissy Brown and featuring live music, a spoken word performance by artist Tia Smedley and a powerful keynote speaker.

The event will also feature a live auction with art donated by acclaimed Nashville painter James Threalkill.

Attendees will enjoy a plated meal, mimosas, a cash bar, networking and great conversation — all for a great cause. Proceeds are tax-deductible and help support our programs and initiatives.

Last year’s sold-out event brought together more than 400 community leaders, corporate executives, elected officials and black women from all walks of life to honor the contributions black women are making to politics, government and society.

Join us to honor black women as Pioneers in Politics and Unsung Sheroes!

Empowerment Brunch General Admission – $100
Empowerment Brunch ticket holders will be treated to entertainment, engaging speakers, a plated brunch, mimosas and networking with inspiring black women.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Unity Sponsor
Vanderbilt University 

Media Partner
BAM! Social Business 

Event Production Partner
Phoenix Forrester Events

Statement on Passage of SB0971/HB1079

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2019

Within 30 days and with minimal debate, the Tennessee General
Assembly today swiftly passed legislation to criminalize the voter
registration process, making our state the first in the nation to
assess civil and criminal penalties on individuals and organizations
who conduct voter registration drives.

On the heels of one of the state’s most successful voter registration
campaigns aimed at registering black and brown citizens, this law
is blatantly racist and mirrors the Jim Crow-era intimidation used to
stifle decades of progress our nation and our state has made to
ensure voting rights for people of color.

As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose core mission strives
to make our democracy more inclusive, it is evident that our state
leaders want to further disenfranchise poor, black, and brown
communities.

This groundbreaking law puts handcuffs on our state’s ability to rise
above our low voter participation rates, but we will find new, creative
ways to continue registering voters.

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Keep Voter Registration Legal in TN: OPPOSE SB0971/HB1079

RALLY TO KEEP VOTER REGISTRATION LEGAL

Monday, April 15
4:00 p.m. CT
Tennessee State Capitol
600 Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN 37243

Please arrive at 3:45 pm CT. We will begin the rally shortly after. We will then walk to the House Chambers to let our state legislators know to oppose HB1079 before the floor vote at 5 p.m.


Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is proposing new restrictions and penalties for voter registration drives in Tennessee.

Secretary Hargett’s proposal would create restrictive regulations and the country’s most aggressive penalties* for voter registration drives that don’t precisely follow their new regulations — up to a $10,000 fine and a criminal misdemeanor.

This kind of law would have a chilling effect on any group trying to engage Tennesseans to vote at a time when Tennessee has been in the bottom five states for voting participation in the last three presidential elections.

Although we have numerous concerns about specific provisions of the bill, we believe that, if enacted, the overall effect of the bill will be to deter third-party individuals and groups from engaging in constitutionally protected activity of helping others vote.  It is the combination of seemingly innocuous preregistration requirements such as preregistration, training, certifying that one will obey the law, providing tracking numbers for mailing of registration forms, ensuring that there are no “deficient” forms—in the context of potentially draconian criminal and civil penalties—that will have a chilling effect on voter registration drives. The bill’s text and application are overbroad, confusing, ambiguous, and worst of all needlessly intimidating. Even with Representative Rudd’s proposed amendment that exempts unpaid individuals and groups registering voters from the bill’s requirements, the bill threatens to punish community members, faith groups, and civic organizations that, in good faith, lawfully run drives that register eligible voters who otherwise would not have registered.

MEDIA COVERAGE
Huffington Post
Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Fines And Criminal Penalties For Voter Registration Drives
The TennesseanPunitive voter registration drive reform bill is voter suppression | Opinion
Times Free PressSome voter registration groups could get hit with $10,000 in civil penalties, up to a year in jail for submitting incomplete, problematic forms
Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under LawCoalition of National and State Organizations Condemns Proposed Voter Suppression Measure in Tennessee
Tennessee TribuneHargett Pushing a Bad Voter Registration Bill
Talking Points MemoTN Sec Of State Pushes Bill Exposing Voter Registration Groups To Criminal Penalties

ACT NOW! On Monday, April 15th, the full House of Representatives will be voting on HB1079 (Rudd), which seeks to impose restrictive regulations on organizations and community volunteers doing voter registration drives. If passed, this would create the country’s most aggressive penalties for voter registration drives that don’t follow the new regulations – up to $10,000 fine and a criminal misdemeanor.  

At a time when our state has one of the country’s lowest voter participation rates, Tennessee should be looking for ways to encourage voter engagement – not suppress it.  Instead of fighting for reforms that actually increase voter participation, like same-day registration and automatic voter registration at the DMV, this bill would penalize voter registration drives. 

Will you take 1 minute to send a message to the committee members and urge them to keep voter registration legal in TN by voting NO on SB0971(Jackson)/HB1079(Rudd)?

Here is The Equity Alliance toolkit. It has talking points, messaging, event info on the Tuesday press conference, a link to the call to action tool to email all elected officials on the state and local committee, sample phone scripts and phone numbers for all legislators!

What’s The “TEA” on the Voter Restoration Bill

A felony conviction is life changing, and that’s putting it mildly. Imprisonment, restitution, and stigma are almost insurmountable obstacles for a formerly incarcerated person. The ways in which a conviction of this magnitude disrupts one’s life does not conclude at the end of a jail sentence or probation. Some states strip away the opportunity to own a gun, to travel out of the country, to work for certain employers, or to receive public assistance such as housing or grants for higher education.

In many ways, the most egregious of these losses is the loss of the right to vote. Voting provides a voice to the otherwise voiceless. It ensures that the will of the people gets reflected in the laws and policies that dictate everything from school funding and sidewalks to tax reform and anti-discrimination in public services.

Formerly incarcerated individuals who have arguably been among the most affected by the decisions of elected officials are cut off from the very process that protects their interests. In Tennessee, more than 421,000 people have completed their sentences and, while they go to work, pay taxes and contribute to their communities in a number of meaningful ways, they are denied access to the voting booth. Tennessee has the fourth highest disenfranchisement rate in the country and consistently ranks last in voter participation. Voter suppression and other tactics make it difficult to vote in Tennessee. Most concerning are the well-known statistics surrounding the incarceration rates for people of color and the affect that has on these communities. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 37% of all federally incarcerated individuals are African-American, an astounding figure considering that African-Americans make up only 13% of the population.

The revocation of voting rights for those who have been incarcerated touches the black population in proportions that are not seen in any other racial demographic. In essence, a larger percentage of black people than any other race are legally kept from the voting booth as continued punishment for an offense for which they have already served a sentence. In fact, 1 in 5 African Americans cannot vote in Tennessee due to a past felony conviction. It begs the question: is the revocation of voting rights an ethical, reasonable, or even pragmatic punishment for those who have committed felonies? 

In Tennessee, those who have been incarcerated are not given the opportunity to restore that right unless they take steps to navigate a convoluted restoration process. The process includes financial requirements that are prohibitive for many people. Tennessee is the only state in the country that requires all court-ordered child support to be paid as a condition of having one’s voting rights restored. This sends yet another signal that we value those who have the means to pay for their freedom rather than providing access equitably.  

The Equity Alliance believes in fair and equal access to the ballot box for all eligible voters. That’s why TEA, along with with several advocacy organizations, such as the ACLU, Americans For Prosperity, Project Return, and Think Tennessee support a new bill that would make the voter restoration process much easier. The bill removes financial obligations and streamlines the administrative process. It puts the burden on the State rather than the individual.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee State Senate will vote on Senate Bill 0589/House Bill 0547, a bill that will move Tennessee one step closer to making it easier for those who have paid their debt to society to vote. It is imperative that Tennesseans hold elected officials responsible and support this bill. The erosion of voting rights for any demographic is unjust, and it is especially troubling when minority communities are disproportionately affected. We will be at the hearing on Tuesday, March 26 at 8:00 a.m., and we hope you’ll join us. You can also call the State Senators on the committee. It takes action from all of us.

The Equity Alliance Joins Legislators, Matthew Charles, Advocates to Discuss New Bills that Will Restore Voting Rights to Tennesseans with Felony Convictions

NASHVILLE, TN – On Wednesday, February 13th, at 2:45 pm, lawmakers, Matthew Charles, advocates and re-entry experts will gather at the Tennessee State Capitol complex in Nashville to discuss new bills (SB 589 / HB 547) that will streamline the voting rights restoration process to Tennesseans with felony convictions who have completed their sentences.

The roundtable will feature the bill sponsors, State Senator Steven Dickerson and State Representative Michael Curcio, alongside Matthew Charles, a formerly-incarcerated activist who was recently released under the First Step Act, as well as prominent advocates and prisoner re-entry experts from The Equity Alliance, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Project Return. Over the course of the roundtable, participants will discuss the substance of the legislation, its potential to limit bureaucratic interference in the rights restoration process, and its impact on formerly incarcerated people living in Tennessee.

Currently, 320,000 Tennesseans with felony convictions, more than 8 percent of the state’s total voting age population, are disenfranchised by the onerous restoration process despite having already served their time and successfully completed their parole and/or probation.

The roundtable will be moderated by Colin Weaver, Director of State Affairs for Secure Democracy. Roundtable participants include:

  • Tennessee State Senator Steve Dickerson
  • Tennessee State Representative Michael Curcio (opening remarks)
  • Matthew Charles, formerly-incarcerated activist released from prison under the First Step Act
  • Tori Venable, State Director at Americans for Prosperity Tennessee
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of ACLU of Tennessee
  • Tequila Johnson, Co-Founder and Vice President of The Equity Alliance (opening remarks)
  • Bettie Kirkland, Executive Director of Project Return

The roundtable will be open to the press and the public.

WHAT:  Roundtable on Restoring Voting Rights to Tennesseans With Felony Convictions

WHERE: Cordell Hull Building, 425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243

     Room information: Conference Room 5C, 5th Floor

WHEN:  2:45 – 3:30 pm, February 13, 2019

   

Phil Bredesen to attend Black Women’s Roundtable Sept. 19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 17, 2018

Contact: Kyonzte Toombs, Esq.

615-971-6786, theequityalliancefund@gmail.com

 

– MEDIA ADVISORY –

Black Women to Sound Off on Roe v. Wade, Issues with Phil Bredesen

The Equity Alliance Fund to gather 30 voters for Black Women’s Roundtable Sept. 19

WHO:                Governor Phil Bredesen

Kyonzte Toombs, The Equity Alliance Fund Board President

Charlane Oliver, The Equity Alliance Board President

30 black women voters

WHAT:              Black Women’s Policy Roundtable. In an effort to leverage our collective voice for the November midterm election in Tennessee, The Equity Alliance Fund – the 501(c)4 advocacy affiliate of The Equity Alliance – and its Black Women for Tennessee coalition is hosting a Black Women’s Policy Roundtable with Governor Phil Bredesen, candidate for U.S. Senate. The roundtable will gather 30 college-educated, black women registered voters to sound off on issues of concern to them and how they want to see their issues championed by Gov. Bredesen, if elected.

WHEN:              Wednesday, September 19, 2018 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE:            Urban League of Middle Tennessee, 50 Vantage Way, Suite 201, Nashville, TN 37228

WHY:                 As one of the largest and most loyal voting blocs, black women in Tennessee refuse to have their vote and their voice taken for granted. The central issue will be women’s health and reproductive rights and the vulnerability of Roe v. Wade if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Viewpoints shared will be related The Equity Alliance’s Fund Four-Point Policy Agenda: Economic Equality, Education, Criminal Justice Reform, and Voting Rights/Protecting the Ballot. This is the second of two events scheduled with the Bredesen campaign. The first took place on Saturday, July 14 at City Winery, where Gov. Bredesen addressed an audience of more than 400 black women and community leaders at the inaugural Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch hosted by The Equity Alliance.

About Black Women for Tennessee

Black Women for Tennessee is a statewide nonpartisan coalition consisting of 25 black-women-led and women-led organizations and more than 600 individual black women committed join forces to register voters, inform voters, and get voters to the polls for the November 2018 midterm election. Learn more at theequityalliance.org/blackwomenfortn.

About The Equity Alliance Fund

The Equity Alliance Fund is the 501(c)4 affiliate issues advocacy organization for The Equity Alliance, a Nashville-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives. Our work focuses on Voter Registration, Voter Education, Voter Restoration, Election Protection, Civic Leadership, and Voting Rights Policy. Learn more at theequityalliance.org.

This is a closed, private event. Invitation only.

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