Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Introduces Legislation to Require States Provide 15 Days of Early Voting, Wait Times of Less Than an Hour

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 22, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has introduced H.R.411, the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, which would ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least 15 days prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour. Congressman Cohen also joined Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Keith Ellison (MN-05) on Capitol Hill today to introduce H.J.Res.25, which would explicitly guarantee the right to vote to in the Constitution, an implied right which is currently not enshrined in the document’s text and that has been eroded in recent years.

“With more than 300 successful voting rights lawsuits over the last 2 decades, the Supreme Court striking down critical Voting Rights Act protections, and states across the South making it harder for citizens to vote, it is clear that more must be done to protect this cornerstone of our democracy,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “Our constitutional amendment would clearly and unequivocally guarantee the right to vote for each and every American, and my SIMPLE Voting Act would ensure they can do it conveniently and without burdensome, unfair wait times. Both would be important steps forward in the march for civil rights.”

In addition to guaranteeing early voting opportunities and adequate resources, Congressman Cohen’s SIMPLE Voting Act would strengthen enforcement of these rights to ensure states comply with the legislation’s provisions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 83 restrictive bills were introduced in at least 29 states, including efforts to require a photo ID, make voter registration more difficult, reduce early voting opportunities, and make it harder for students to vote.

While most Americans believe an explicit right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution, the Constitution in fact contains no expressed guarantee of an individual’s right to vote, a point that was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Only a constitutional amendment can ensure this right will be guaranteed in the future.

The text of H.J.Res.25, the Right to Vote Amendment, follows:

  • SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.
  • SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.

 

Categories
Press Releases

Kyle Laments ‘Barriers to Voting’ in TN

Press release from State Senator Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; September 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Voter participation in Tennessee is critically low, and the barriers to voting are too high, Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said Friday.

“What’s the difference between a farmer in Iowa and a farmer in Tennessee? A farmer in Iowa can vote for president today,” Kyle said.

Early voting has already started in Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont and Virginia. Tennessee starts Oct. 17.

Only five states have lower voter participation than Tennessee, according to a Sept. 10 study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. It recommends that state elections officials study a method for voters residing at a temporary residence to vote in statewide elections.

The report also looks at ways other states have modernized their elections with new methods for voting. Eight states allow same-day registration, others allow voting by mail and even voting by email, which is especially convenient for military personnel overseas.

“Tennessee, unfortunately, has instead set up new barriers making it harder to vote,” Kyle said. “On top of that, problems with county balloting systems are raising questions about the integrity of our elections.”

View the complete TACIR study here.

 

Categories
Press Releases

TN Transgender Coalition Urges Early Voters to Support ‘Equal Rights’ Candidates

Press release from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition; July 12, 2012: 

Starting tomorrow, Friday, July 13, voters across Tennessee will begin going to the polls to nominate candidates for United States Senate, United States House, State Senate (even numbered districts), State House, and will vote on whether to retain two judges on the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

In addition, many local jurisdictions will also hold general elections, including many school board races who are overdue in addressing bullying and harassment of LGBT youth in their districts.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition urges everyone to get out and support candidates who support equal rights for all.

Unfortunately, Tennessee is one of the states that has adopted a Voter Suppression Law. Over the past several years, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition worked as part of the No Barriers to the Ballot Box Coalition to oppose Voter Suppression in the state because we believe that it will serve to disfranchise transgender voters, thus striking at the very core of our democracy.

TTPC is working with the National Center for Transgender Equality in collecting information on any transperson who is disfarnchised by the new law. That includes if you stayed at home to avoid using an ID with the wrong gender marker.

Facebook: Discriminatory Voter ID laws may suppress trans voters, or disenfranchise them altogether. In order to address the problem, we need to hear from trans people who are having trouble voting. Please share your story here. http://transgenderequality.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/voter-id-laws-and-trans-people-share-your-story/

Tweet: Discriminatory Voter ID laws may impact trans people. Submit your story of voter suppression or disenfranchisement. http://bit.ly/ywDgfS #lgbt #p2

This will be used to help us prepare for any legal challenge to the new law.

Early Voting runs from July 13 to 28. Election Day is Thursday, August 2.

Save the Dates!

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and the Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt University welcome Gautam Raghavan, the White House LGBT Liaison, to Nashville on Sunday, September 9, 7:00 pm, CDT.

Then join the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition at our 8th Annual Dinner on Friday, October 19, featuring Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore.

And Please Save These Other Dates!

Saturday, July 21, 6:00 to 7:30 pm, CDT
Statewide Summer Meeting
Nashville
Contact TTPC for directions and to RSVP.

Monday, August 6
P-FLAG Franklin

Saturday, August 18
P-FLAG Tennessee-Kentucky ConferenceNashville

September 20-23
Southern Comfort Conference
Atlanta

Saturday, October 6
Mid-South Pride Festival
Memphis

Sunday, October 7
Tennessee Valley Pride
Chattanooga

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. Founded in 2003, TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

Categories
Transparency and Elections

Early Voting Patterns Have Wamp Smelling Upset

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp credits U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn with defining a political trend in Tennessee that he believes will help him win the governor’s race.

“She calls it Middle to West. What happened 10 years ago in Middle Tennessee is now happening in West Tennessee,” Wamp said.

“It’s a grassroots, blue-collar, red-blooded, lower-to-middle to middle-class new Republican voter. It’s not the country club people Bill Haslam appeals to,” Wamp said. “He really has nowhere to go. That’s good.”

Whether there is truth in Wamp’s assessment of how to nominate a Republican to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen only the results of the Aug. 5 primary will tell.

But whether the Republican votes in the governor’s race are going to Wamp, Haslam or Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the number of Republican voters in early voting compared to Democrats is overwhelming.

Figures from the state Division of Elections updated Monday showed that 249,709 ballots had been cast in early and absentee voting. The balloting includes Democratic and Republican primaries for governor and the state’s congressional races, as well as legislative races. Of the total number of voters, 156,338 cast Republican primary ballots, compared to 78,657 for Democrats.

A closer look shows that of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Republicans have the majority of ballots cast in 74 of them, compared to 21 counties with Democratic majorities. What has looked like a tidal wave of Republican support over the last few months at Republican events appears to be manifesting itself in early voting.

Much of the disparity might well be attributed to the fact Democrats have little motivation to vote in the primary, since in the governor’s race Mike McWherter is the only Democrat still running and is sure to win the nomination. A ruggedly combative race in the Republican primary pits Wamp of Chattanooga, Knoxville’s Haslam and Ramsey of Blountville in the hunt.

A recent Mason Dixon poll by the Tennessee Newspaper Network, a partnership among the state’s four major newspapers, showed Haslam leading the Republican pack with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Wamp with 25 percent and Ramsey with 20 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

“It’s almost impossible to poll people in a primary,” Ramsey said. “People are examining the issues, and they’re coming toward me.”

But the Democrat, McWherter, seems to believe the Republican choice will be Haslam. McWherter issued a press release Monday in which his campaign manager, Kim Sasser Hayden, said, “As Bill Haslam spends millions of dollars trying to defend his record of raising property taxes, price gouging Tennesseans at the gas pump and hiding his vast oil wealth, Tennessee voters realize he is not the character he has tried to create in his television ads.”

McWherter also announced a campaign television ad, which focuses on his plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

Haslam’s lead in the primary would appear to be commanding by following recent polls, which makes it all the more intriguing that the Knoxville mayor put up a one-minute television ad recently defending himself against Wamp’s attacks and launching some of his own at the congressman. Wamp has tried to paint Haslam as a rich kid and an oil man. Haslam, whose family has built a fortune with its Pilot Travel Centers, makes voters aware in his ad that Wamp has participated in Washington’s spending ways and never had to balance a budget.

Ramsey, who has the support of tea party organizers, is painting himself as the one true conservative with the legislative experience to be governor. Ramsey is hitting both Haslam and Wamp in his advertising, capitalizing on issues similar to theirs.

Haslam’s latest ad leads to the question of why a candidate with a double-digit lead would bother to air a negative response ad, unless there is more to the reason for the ad than Haslam is letting on. He has said the title of the ad, “Enough Is Enough,” says it all about its intention. Haslam said he just got tired of what he was putting up with from Wamp.

Ramsey said the Haslam campaign thought it would coast to victory.

“They went to the four corners offense and tried to run the clock out and way too soon,” Ramsey said. “He’s literally trying to ride this out. You can’t dodge the voters and expect to win. They’re (the Haslam campaign) in free fall. They know they’re in free fall. They’re not in panic mode yet, but I think they’re getting close to it.”

Yet Ramsey and Wamp trail in the polls, which gets back to Wamp’s point.

“Polling doesn’t show where people are voting heavy or voting light,” Wamp said. “Just watch what happens. Where people are voting in bigger numbers is where I am going to do better. We’re watching that constantly in early voting.

“I do well in rural counties. I wanted to do a certain percentage of the total vote, and they’re 8 points higher. What does that mean? It means a lot of traditional Democrats in rural counties in places like the 8th District are voting Republican for the first time ever. I’m doing very well there.”

Of the 21 counties where there have been more people voting in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary, five are in the 8th Congressional District in West Tennessee, where Democratic state Sen. Roy Herron is the likely nominee against a field of three Republicans — Stephen Fincher, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn — who are in a fierce battle.

Six of the Democrats’ majority counties are in the 6th Congressional District, where state Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy and former businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik are waging a tough Republican primary battle. Two war veterans, Brett Carter and Ben Leming, head the Democratic field in the 6th.

Five of the Democrats’ 21 majority counties in early voting are in the 4th Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis awaits the survivor of a crowded field of Republicans.

As expected Democrats are casting the majority of ballots in the state’s two biggest urban counties, Davidson (which is Nashville) and Shelby (which includes Memphis). Republicans have cast the majority of early-voting ballots in Hamilton County (Chattanooga) and Knox County (Knoxville).

Knox County, home to Haslam, has cast 13,951 Republican ballots in early voting to 1,166 for Democrats.

Republicans Showing Force in Early Voting

By Mike Morrow

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp credits U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn with defining a political trend in Tennessee that he believes will help him win the governor’s race.

“She calls it Middle to West. What happened 10 years ago in Middle Tennessee is now happening in West Tennessee,” Wamp said.

“It’s a grassroots, blue-collar, red-blooded, lower-to-middle to middle-class new Republican voter. It’s not the country club people Bill Haslam appeals to,” Wamp said. “He really has nowhere to go. That’s good.”

Whether there is truth in Wamp’s assessment of how to nominate a Republican to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen only the results of the Aug. 5 primary will tell.

But whether the Republican votes in the governor’s race are going to Wamp, Haslam or Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the number of Republican voters in early voting compared to Democrats is overwhelming.

Figures from the state Division of Elections updated Monday showed that 249,709 ballots had been cast in early and absentee voting. The balloting includes Democratic and Republican primaries for governor and the state’s congressional races, as well as legislative races. Of the total number of voters, 156,338 cast Republican primary ballots, compared to 78,657 for Democrats.

A closer look shows that of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Republicans have the majority of ballots cast in 74 of them, compared to 21 counties with Democratic majorities. What has looked like a tidal wave of Republican support over the last few months at Republican events appears to be manifesting itself in early voting.

Much of the disparity might well be attributed to the fact Democrats have little motivation to vote in the primary, since in the governor’s race Mike McWherter is the only Democrat still running and is sure to win the nomination. A ruggedly combative race in the Republican primary pits Wamp of Chattanooga, Knoxville’s Haslam and Ramsey of Blountville in the hunt.

A recent Mason Dixon poll by the Tennessee Newspaper Network, a partnership among the state’s four major newspapers, showed Haslam leading the Republican pack with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Wamp with 25 percent and Ramsey with 20 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

“It’s almost impossible to poll people in a primary,” Ramsey said. “People are examining the issues, and they’re coming toward me.”

But the Democrat, McWherter, seems to believe the Republican choice will be Haslam. McWherter issued a press release Monday in which his campaign manager, Kim Sasser Hayden, said, “As Bill Haslam spends millions of dollars trying to defend his record of raising property taxes, price gouging Tennesseans at the gas pump and hiding his vast oil wealth, Tennessee voters realize he is not the character he has tried to create in his television ads.”

McWherter also announced a campaign television ad, which focuses on his plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

Haslam’s lead in the primary would appear to be commanding by following recent polls, which makes it all the more intriguing that the Knoxville mayor put up a one-minute television ad recently defending himself against Wamp’s attacks and launching some of his own at the congressman. Wamp has tried to paint Haslam as a rich kid and an oil man. Haslam, whose family has built a fortune with its Pilot Travel Centers, makes voters aware in his ad that Wamp has participated in Washington’s spending ways and never had to balance a budget.

Ramsey, who has the support of tea party organizers, is painting himself as the one true conservative with the legislative experience to be governor. Ramsey is hitting both Haslam and Wamp in his advertising, capitalizing on issues similar to theirs.

Haslam’s latest ad leads to the question of why a candidate with a double-digit lead would bother to air a negative response ad, unless there is more to the reason for the ad than Haslam is letting on. He has said the title of the ad, “Enough Is Enough,” says it all about its intention. Haslam said he just got tired of what he was putting up with from Wamp.

Ramsey said the Haslam campaign thought it would coast to victory.

“They went to the four corners offense and tried to run the clock out and way too soon,” Ramsey said. “He’s literally trying to ride this out. You can’t dodge the voters and expect to win. They’re (the Haslam campaign) in free fall. They know they’re in free fall. They’re not in panic mode yet, but I think they’re getting close to it.”

Yet Ramsey and Wamp trail in the polls, which gets back to Wamp’s point.

“Polling doesn’t show where people are voting heavy or voting light,” Wamp said. “Just watch what happens. Where people are voting in bigger numbers is where I am going to do better. We’re watching that constantly in early voting.

“I do well in rural counties. I wanted to do a certain percentage of the total vote, and they’re 8 points higher. What does that mean? It means a lot of traditional Democrats in rural counties in places like the 8th District are voting Republican for the first time ever. I’m doing very well there.”

Of the 21 counties where there have been more people voting in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary, five are in the 8th Congressional District in West Tennessee, where Democratic state Sen. Roy Herron is the likely nominee against a field of three Republicans — Stephen Fincher, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn — who are in a fierce battle.

Six of the Democrats’ majority counties are in the 6th Congressional District, where state Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy and former businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik are waging a tough Republican primary battle. Two war veterans, Brett Carter and Ben Leming, head the Democratic field in the 6th.

Five of the Democrats’ 21 majority counties in early voting are in the 4th Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis awaits the survivor of a crowded field of Republicans.

As expected Democrats are casting the majority of ballots in the state’s two biggest urban counties, Davidson (which is Nashville) and Shelby (which includes Memphis). Republicans have cast the majority of early-voting ballots in Hamilton County (Chattanooga) and Knox County (Knoxville).

Knox County, home to Haslam, has cast 13,951 Republican ballots in early voting to 1,166 for Democrats.