Republicans in the state legislature say they want to update the law overseeing the duties of county election clerks in Tennessee. For instance, the law is so old it doesn’t even mention early voting. But Democratic leaders say one part of the Republican proposal goes too far.
House Democratic Leader Gary Odom says the bothersome part of the measure calls for the state election coordinator to help local registrars with redistricting – the re-drawing of boundaries for elections. Odom says redistricting is a responsibility of the legislature.
“The element that is emphasized in this legislation is to assist in re-districting, and I think that in itself would make…the position more political, more partisan.”
State Representative Bill Dunn, a Knoxville Republican, says he understands Odom’s unease.
“You know when the Republicans were in the minority party, and the Democrats would bring an election-related bill, we’d be very nervous, you know, “What are they trying to do, what are they doing with their majority?”
The state House deferred a vote on the bill Monday night.
Odom’s discomfort with the bill dates to the turnover of control of the legislature to the GOP. When Democrats held the majority in the legislature, they passed a law to make all county election commissions controlled by the majority party.
When Republicans gained the majority last year, they took over all county elections commissions. Odom says the first thing GOP did when it won control of the state legislature was fire clerks who could be identified as Democrats.
“You have some activists, partisan activists, on the state election commission, who have basically been encouraging Republican-controlled election commissions throughout the state to terminate long-standing, well-qualified registrars who were doing a good job.”
The bill is HB 3056 Dunn/SB 3774 Bunch.
The Senate version will be on the agenda for the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, March 24.