Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout, according to a 2016 study.
Sadly, we also rank 40th in voter registration. In Davidson County, black and brown citizens live in voting precincts with the lowest voter turnout. This is not by accident. We must flip this stat on its head.
Civic engagement and voter participation are essential to preserving and protecting our democracy. But our democracy is systematically suppressing the vote for communities of color through voter ID laws, purging voters from the rolls, reduced polling times and early voting periods, and tough criminal penalties that increase mass incarceration rates.
According to a groundbreaking article in The Atlantic:
Most people adjudicated in the criminal justice system today waive the right to a trial and the host of protections that go along with one, including the right to appeal. Instead, they plead guilty. The vast majority of felony convictions are now the result of plea bargains—some 94 percent at the state level, and some 97 percent at the federal level. Estimates for misdemeanor convictions run even higher. These are astonishing statistics, and they reveal a stark new truth about the American criminal-justice system: Very few cases go to trial.
In Tennessee, 8.2% of the voting population are disenfranchised because of their criminal record. Our state further penalizes the poor based on how much money they have as a condition of getting their voting rights restored, driver’s license reinstated—which is necessary to vote, being released from jail on bond, or whether they can afford to take their case to trial.
Racial ethnic minorities, especially black Americans, played a pivotal role in Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential wins. Now, newly released Census Bureau data confirm what many have anticipated: that both minority and black voter turnout took a decided downturn in last November’s elections
According to a Tennessean article, Nashville ranks No. 7 among large metros in wealth segregation and No. 10 among large metros when it comes to income segregation.
Wealthier people are more prone to live among themselves and poverty is more concentrated. This has implications for public safety, the quality of schools and access to good jobs.
That also has the potential to destroy the middle class, stall economic growth and concentrate poverty further.
Our aim is to remove policy barriers that make it difficult for persons of color to make their voice heard in the voting booth. We also aim to increase minority voter turnout through voter registration and education. Use online voter registration or download a Tennessee voter registration application and submit the application to your local county election commission. In order to participate in an election, a qualified voter must be properly registered no later than thirty (30) days before the election.