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Responsive Gov’s Grade TL;DR

Although the Tennessee General Assembly introduced dozens of election-related bills this past session, only a few minor changes, albeit positive, became law. However, the secretary of state’s office made a major policy shift in the process that allows individuals to have their voting rights restored. Tennessee already has an extraordinarily high rate of felony disenfranchisement and this new change will ensure the state is unable to make meaningful progress towards correcting the problem. Tennessee received a D- on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Tennessee Started at the Beginning of 2023

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
  • Same-Day Registration: No
  • Restoration of Rights: Some Permanent Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: Excuse-Required
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
  • Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
  • ID Requirements: Strict Photo ID

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Tennessee as of 2022, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2023 activity against other bottom tier states.

How Our Tier Compares

  • COVI (2022): 38th
  • EPI Score (2020): 37th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 5/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): LOW

2023: This Past Year

Legislative Action

  • S 346 requires all high schools to inform each high school senior that once they reach 18 years of age they may be eligible to vote. Schools should also inform them of voter eligibility requirements, how to register, and the date of the school’s voter registration drive.
  • H 1000 allows individuals convicted of illegal registration or illegal voting to have their record expunged after 15 years if they have paid any associated fines/fees/restitution and met all conditions of release.
  • S 854 authorizes candidates to receive a list of all voters that have updated their voter registration address at the polls. In the event of a recount, those address updates must be verified as part of the recount process.

Executive Action

  • Last year, the secretary of state’s office announced a shift in the state’s process for restoring voting rights that will now require returning citizens to either be granted clemency or have their rights restored by a circuit court judge in order to be eligible to register and vote. Tennessee already has the second highest number of citizens that remain disenfranchised due to felony convictions and this policy shift will only further increase the level of disenfranchisement.