Election Commission rescinds plan to review voter citizenship

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 4:14pm

The Davidson County Election Commission has decided not to go ahead with a controversial plan to review the citizenship of recently registered voters who were born outside of the United States.

The commission voted 3-2 a month ago approving a proposal from Commissioner Steve Abernathy to ask the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to single out those voters for examination. Abernathy has expressed concern that non-U.S. citizens are ending up on the rolls unlawfully.

By voting Thursday to rescind that vote, the commission abandoned a move that Metro attorneys called “constitutionally suspect” and said would likely have violated the National Voter Registration Act — commonly known as the motor voter act.

The state is currently undergoing its own review of the voter registration rolls, and commissioners said Thursday they’ve been told to expect the results of that study by the end of April. Abernathy expressed frustration about the three elections — many involving close races — that have taken place over the 14 months the commission has been waiting on the state’s study. But he told reporters that he saw Thursday’s outcome as a victory, because the commission will eventually get the information he was seeking.

“I felt like that it was important that we be able to ensure that our voter rolls are accurate,” he said. “People that are here legally, that haven’t obtained their citizenship, shouldn’t be registered to vote and the motor voter act clearly creates situations where they may in fact have that occur.”

Abernathy said he believes between 3,000 and 10,000 non-U.S. citizens could be unlawfully registered to vote because of what he described as a flawed system. The so-called motor voter act requires states to give individuals the opportunity to register to vote when they go to apply for or renew a driver’s license. As a result, Abernathy said, some immigrants who are in the country legally but have not yet become citizens may register when presented with the opportunity, believing they must be legally allowed to do so. In that case, Abernathy said, legal immigrants might also be unknowingly putting themselves at risk of deportation.

Now, Abernathy said he will wait on the results of the state’s review. He raised the possibility of taking legal action if the state does not act within a reasonable time frame, but said he hopes it won’t come to that and doesn’t believe it will.

Immigrant rights groups, and other activists, many of whom crowded into the meeting Thursday requiring the use of overflow rooms supplied with audio of the proceedings, were pleased with the commission’s decision to abandon a plan they have said was discriminatory.

“We applaud today’s decision by the Election Commission to protect the citizens of Davidson County,” said Stephanie Teatro, director of advocacy for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “As a county that strives to be world-class and welcoming, we should work to facilitate the civic engagement of New Tennesseans, not create discriminatory barriers to full participation. Today’s reversal is a step in the right direction.”

23 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 3/22/13 at 6:17

Why should the Immigrant community be so upset over this proposal, if no one
on the voting rolls is not illegally registered? The Motor Voter Law is very
confusing to those that may be legally eligible to get a Driver's license, but
aren't legally qualified to Vote, yet there is the spot on the form asking if they wish
to be registered to vote. If by mistake or on purpose they have been registered
then they should be removed and register later after that status changes.

The true motives of those complaining about a simple check of the rolls are
the ones that are suspect in these complaints.

By: mslassie on 3/22/13 at 8:25

govskeptic: Couldn't the same be said about all the gun huggers who are screaming about gun registration and background checks? Hmmm.

I'm not a member of the immigrant community but I resent this witch hunt that is costing us taxpayers boatloads of money and has no justification whatsoever according to countless studies. Anyone with a brain can see it's just a smokescreen.

By: WayneR on 3/22/13 at 8:57

Mr. Steve Abernathy is quoted as saying:

SA> He raised the possibility of taking legal action if the state does not act within a reasonable time frame, but said he hopes it won’t come to that and doesn’t believe it will.

I suppose it will also depend upon what god instructs him to do.

According to the Tennessean of March 22, 2013:

"Abernathy, who wrote in an email to supporters Thursday morning that his plan was given to him by God and could “save America,” said during the meeting that noncitizens’ votes could get them deported. He also said each vote would disenfranchise a legal voter."

Now I was not aware until today that Mr. Abernathy has a pipeline to god and that god apparently opted to speak directly to a member of the Metro Election Commission, hence interfering in our election process.

It was not too many years ago that people who heard god's voice telling them what to do were candidates for Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute on Murfreesboro Rd. God help us if this sort of nonsense is what dictates our election rules.

None too hopeful,

Phiber Optik

By: wasaw on 3/22/13 at 9:25

Don't you love it when the Dems show pure comtempt for any effort to ensure purity of the voter registration rolls? Wouldn't you think they would want to ensure the legal voter that his/her vote could not be cancelled out by the illegal voter? You would think this would be the case but we all know why the Dems are taking their stance.
Only one of the many reasons reasons I left the donkey party many years ago. To wins at any cost is not a characteristic we've engrained in our children. There's really not anything that the donkey party stands for that we've taught our children. Must be why they've worked all their lives and are self-supporting.

By: ancienthighway on 3/22/13 at 9:36

So Abernathy was frustrated because 14 months elapsed since requesting the study. Three elections took place, with "many involving close races", and he's concerned illegals might have been voting for liberals. I look at the current make up of the state government and say, even if non-citizens were voting, they didn't do any good!

Isn't this the type of thing the voter ID law is suppose to catch? That means either the Voter ID law is ineffective or poll workers aren't doing their job. Of course procedures could be changed for getting a license, and the workers actually check the identification used to see if they are citizens or not and have them check the appropriate box. We don't know if that happens already. If it is, sure some could slip through due to our government employee's error, but let's not go on a witch hunt for every possible non-citizen to have them show their papers.

"The true motives of those complaining about a simple check of the rolls are
the ones that are suspect in these complaints." How much money is it costing the tax payer for this "simple check"?

By: factsareimportant on 3/22/13 at 1:12

to wasaw: Opposition to the Abernathy motion was bipartisan. Look it up.

By: govskeptic on 3/22/13 at 4:54

ancienthighway: You don't know what your talking about on this. We're not talking
about Voter ID law, the problem is the Motor Voter Law that was
enacted and forced on the states by the federal government. It's
purpose was for convenience across the country for "Legal"
Citizens to also register to vote when getting their "Legal" driver's
license. That portion of the form has nothing on it about
citizenship, hence making it easy for immigrants to check "Yes"
to the voter registration, even if they don't know or understand.

By: slzy on 3/23/13 at 10:41

Why don't we just dissolve the government and embrace the mere anarchy so long predicted?

By: ancienthighway on 3/24/13 at 7:06

No, govskeptic, I do know what I'm talking about.

The Motor Voter Law can be enacted in a manner that would verify voter eligibility before allowing someone to register to vote. If no citizenship check is being made, then the problem is right there in the registration. I certainly won't blame an immigrant, or felon, or anyone else ineligible to vote from checking a box they didn't know they weren't suppose to, or checking it to try to get past a flaw in the system.

However the Voter ID law was put in place to catch these ineligible persons from voting. If there is this perceived problem, then the Voter ID isn't working either. This law relies on the state issued driver's license or ID to verify identity and compare it with voter registration. However, neither of those forms of identity state if someone is ineligible to vote. Non-citizens can get driver's licenses. Felons can get driver's licenses.

So as it is, two different laws, one to make registration easy, and one to prevent illegal voting, are tied to the driver's license. Design of the driver's license and procedures used in issuing it may be allowing registration of persons not eligible, and effective use in stopping voter fraud.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 8:22

The underclass population is booming and they are demanding to vote and be heard. Why ? because they want more free stuff.

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 8:41

Gail Kerr says "election commission avoids sending a bad message". Guess she thinks any step taken to make sure only eligible voters can vote is a bad step. I think it would be a good step. But then she always seems a little short of logic!

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 8:43

Raspy you should be glad the underclass population is booming, that means more buddies for you. Now the old girl that pays your bills might want you to run with a little better gang, but what the heck.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 10:41

Bfra........Women are central to my life. Just the reverse of your supposition. Women have cost me at least 3 million dollars. A few tears along the way but worth every penny.

All were beautiful intelligent and cunning. I would call them the opposite of you.

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 10:46

Raspy that just shows how "little" you really do know.:-)

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 10:56

BFRA.......I can assure you that never have I shown "it" to you.

P.S. The reason I am so positive is because I have never been in any Section 8 housing and you have never had social access to the world I live in.

I am so thankful for both of those statements.

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 11:13

Raspy - Too bad statements aren't always facts. You are right on one thing, I have never had to lower myself to your social class, thank goodness. You seem to know a lot about the so called FREE social services, I guess that comes from having access.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 11:15

Bfra....My social class is as thankful as you are.

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 11:27

Raspy most in your social class usually are thankful to some extent. I think it is great that people in better financial standings can lend a helping hand for people like you. Wish we could do more.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 5:12

Bfra, Only in your underclass mind!

By: bfra on 3/25/13 at 5:57

Raspy - Now you are only good for 1 laugh a day and you are trying for 2. Shame! Shame!

By: Rasputin72 on 3/25/13 at 6:07

Bfra.......I want to repeat with no humor intended, "Only in your underclass mind"

By: pswindle on 3/26/13 at 12:06

What kind of voter fraud did we have in the last three elections? This is silly as hell and the people of TN know. This crazy idea seems to come from just the GOP controlled Legislative Branches around the country. The GOP cannot win unless they try to keep some from voting.

By: Libertine on 3/26/13 at 6:33

Are Democrats in the Senate cool with the use of student IDs to purchase alcohol, handguns, ammo and assault rifles? If so, maybe we have a compromise?