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Lawsuit challenges Tennessee law on political affiliations for primary voting

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(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s League of Women Voters and individuals Victor Ashe and Phil Lawson filed a lawsuit against a state law that requires voters to be a “bona fide” member of a political party to vote in a primary.

The lawsuit claims the law creates confusion and will be used to intimidate voters in the state, who are not required to register with a party.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law in May and now polling places are required to add a notice for primaries.

“It is a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-7-115(b), and punishable as a crime under Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-19-102 or Section 2-19-107, if a person votes in a political party’s primary without being a bona fide member of or affiliated with that political party, or to declare allegiance to that party without the intent to affiliate with that party,” the signs read.

https://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0978

When the bill was signed, Attorney Daniel Horwitz explained that a person’s right to vote would have to be challenged at the polling place by another person who is present. Then election judges would have to administer an oath and ask questions of the voter on the spot and only if the judges unanimously agree the voter cannot vote would the challenge be valid.

The lawsuit says neither the law nor any other provision in Tennessee law defines what it means to be a bona fide party member and it also does not say how someone can declare allegiance to a party to avoid prosecution.

“I am a lifelong Republican, having served as an office holder and a candidate selected in the Republican primary as the party’s candidate for the United States Senate,” Ashe said in a statement. “I was shocked to learn about this new law, which allows someone other than me to determine if I am a bona fide member of a political party without clear criteria as to what that term means.”

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