Lawsuit seeks to ensure voters can vote safely by mail in the upcoming elections and ensure ballots count
For Immediate Release May 1, 2020
In the midst of a global pandemic, The Equity Alliance, in partnership with Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of two qualified voters and organizations whose many members are not eligible for vote by mail under current law, but wish to avoid exposing themselves or elderly family members to coronavirus.
Other plaintiffs include five organizations facing restrictions preventing them from carrying out necessary voter engagement activities for their members and the community in 2020. Under Tennessee law, the organizations can be punished for giving voters unsolicited requests for an absentee ballot with up to 11 months and 29 days in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
Typically, Tennesseans have cast their ballots largely in person. Recently, the rapid shift towards voting by mail has revealed how unprepared Tennessee is to ensure all absentee ballots are counted in the upcoming elections. The state gives election officials discretion to reject absentee ballots when elections officials decide, in their judgment, that the voter’s signature on their ballot doesn’t match the voter’s signature on file with the voter registration. This “matching” process is unreliable and prone to mistakes, and because the state does not give voters any opportunity to fix apparent problems with their ballot, leads to disenfranchisement.
The following statement is from The Equity Alliance Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Charlane Oliver on A. Phillip Randolph Institute v. Hargett. The Equity Alliance is an organizational plaintiff in the suit.
“Tennessee voters should not be forced to choose between their own personal safety and participating in our democratic process. Our state needs to adapt to the current environment brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our organization wants to be able to proactively assist voters with voting by absentee ballot without the threat of criminal prosecution. We are in unprecedented circumstances that call for state officials to implement safer and secure approaches t ensure democracy is preserved in the Volunteer State.”
‘The Great White Hoax’ Film Screening and Panel Discussion
The Equity Alliance invites you to a free screening of the short film, The Great White Hoax, on Thursday, November 30, at 5:30 p.m. at Lee Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 1200 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd. in Nashville. Immediately following the screening, we will host a panel discussion featuring experts in politics, voter turnout, and community relations.
The panel will include: John Faison, Sr., Pastor of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church; Kristal Knight, Executive Director of Emerge Tennessee; Dr. Pippa Holloway, a local organizer and MTSU Professor of History; and Vonda McDaniel, President of the Central Labor Council of Nashville/Middle Tennessee and Vice President to the National Executive Council of the AFL-CIO.
The panel discussion will dissect the film in a nonpartisan way and provide insight and concrete steps on what community members can do to ensure more people are registered to vote, more people actually do vote, and more people are engaged in the political process.
Food will be provided by The Post East, Olive Garden, and Coco’s Italian Market.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The film starts at 6:00 p.m. Panel discussion begins at 7:40 p.m. Immediately following the panel, we will have a voter registration drive to register to vote onsite! The event is free and open to the public.
About The Film
The explosive, thought-provoking film features acclaimed anti-racist educator and author and Nashville resident Tim Wise. It explores how American political leaders of both parties have been tapping into white anxiety, stoking white grievance, and scapegoating people of color for decades to divide and conquer working-class voters and shore up political support.
The film’s primary focus is Donald Trump’s race-baiting 2016 campaign for the presidency. But it also widens its scope to show how Trump’s charged rhetoric about African-Americans, Latinos, and Muslims fits within a longstanding historical pattern, offering a stunning survey of how racism and racial scapegoating have shaped American politics for centuries.
John R. Faison, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Watson Grove Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, affectionately known as “The Grove,” where they endeavor to be “A GROWING church for GROWING people whom Christ will use in GROWING His Kingdom.” A native of Boykins, Virginia, Pastor Faison earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. Under Pastor Faison’s leadership, God is using The Grove to impact the city of Nashville and beyond with tremendous effectiveness. Since his arrival in March 2012, the congregation has grown from 300 to over 1900 members. Additionally, several innovative ministry initiatives have launched and powerfully impacted the community, making Pastor Faison a “go-to” resource for a city seeking to respond to its own unprecedented growth. He is a passionate advocate for community transformation and development, as seen in his work as an HIV/AIDS National Ambassador with the NAACP (theblackchurchandhiv.org), mentor in public school districts, advisor to several community organizations, and member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.
Kristal Knight joined Emerge Tennessee as the Executive Director in late February 2017. She brings a host of presidential and local campaign experience to the job. She began her political career as a Field Organizer for then-Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Washington, D.C. reelection campaign. From there. she served as a Regional Field Director for the reelection of President Barack Obama in 2012 in Philadelphia, PA and returned to D.C. to serve on his Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2013. Most recently, she worked on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, helping with export operations to Virginia and Pennsylvania. She is passionate about expanding the opportunities for women and people of color in politics and has served on many local and community boards in Washington, D.C. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Kristal holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Howard University and a Masters in International Public Policy from University College London in the UK.
Dr. Pippa Holloway is the author of three books, including Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship (Oxford Books), and is a 2007 Soros Justice Fellow. She earned her doctorate in history from The Ohio State University, master’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Soros Justice Fellow and Middle Tennessee State University Professor of History. View her full Curriculum Vitae here.
Vonda McDaniel is president of the the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and has recently been named vice president to the National Executive Council of the AFL-CIO. Vonda was elected to the leadership position by delegates at the National Convention of the AFL-CIO in St. Louis. Vonda, a United Steelworker member at the Bridgestone/Firestone Plant in La Vergne, has worked as president of the Central Labor Council since 2013. The council operates as a federation of multiple local unions representing more than 19,000 workers. In Metro, Vonda is serving her second term as a member on the Nashville Convention Center Authority after getting reappointed by Mayor Megan Barry in 2015.