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How a large-scale effort to register black voters led to a crackdown in Tennessee [washingtonpost.com]

 

Amy Gardner, Washington Post, May 24, 2019.

Last year, an army of paid workers with stacks of voter registration forms fanned out in Memphis, Nashville and other parts of Tennessee to persuade African Americans to vote. They walked the parking lots of grocery stores and laundromats, stood outside church services, and cajoled revelers on party buses and at nightclubs.

By October, the Tennessee Black Voter Project took credit for turning in more than 90,000 voter registration applications — what organizers hoped would be a first step in a broader effort to get more African Americans to be a regular force in elections.

But the surge of forms that landed in the months before Election Day was chaotic and consuming, according to officials in the state’s two largest counties, which include Memphis and Nashville. Thousands of applications had errors or omissions, they said, and their workers were overwhelmed by the task of verifying all the forms.

The state’s top elections official, a former Republican lawmaker named Mark Goins, called the crush of applications and the errors they contained a “dangerous” situation for others who were “properly” trying to register.

He proposed a solution that went further than any other state had: imposing civil penalties on groups that employ paid canvassers if they submit incomplete or inaccurate voter registration forms.

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