Tennessee ACLU launches voter turnout project

    (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
    (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jason Isbell is working with the ACLU Tennessee on a campaign to mobilize Tennesseeans to vote via mail-in ballot or early voting for the November election.

    The campaign, called “Vote Like Your Rights Depend on It,” will feature a video from Isbell, virtual events, educational materials, social media tips and the hashtag #votesafe and digital and direct mail advertising. The organization will also use community partners to conduct outreach in suburban and rural parts of the state.

    Hedy Weinberg, ACLU Tennessee executive director, said said “In a democracy, our vote is our voice. This campaign will ensure that eligible voters know their options for voting safely this November and have a plan to vote. Every vote matters.”

    Tennessee ranks 49th in the country in voter turnout numbers, according to ThinkTennessee, a non-partisan think tank that focuses on civic  engagement, and 45th in the country in voter registration.

    Complicating elections in 2020 has been the impact of COVID-19 and in Tennessee, legal back and forth over the use of absentee ballots.

    “No one should have to choose between their health and their vote. Historically disenfranchised Americans are experiencing both the worst of voter suppression and the worst of the pandemic,” said Brandon Tucker, policy director for the ACLU of Tennessee. “This campaign will provide voters with the tools they need to cast a ballot safely, so that we can all vote like our rights depend on it.”

    Current Tennessee absentee voting law says that anyone over the age of 60 is eligible to receive an absentee ballot. A voter who is either susceptible to COVID-19 or the caretaker of someone with underlying conditions who is susceptible is also eligible. A full list of conditions qualifying one for absentee voting  can be found here.

    Both the ACLU and the Tennessee Secretary of State post key dates on their websites, including the last day to register to vote, which is Oct. 5, and early voting dates, Oct. 14-29. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3 and the ballot includes not only the presidential race but one U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, all U.S. House of Representatives seats and all State House of Representative seats.

    Isbell regularly expresses progressive political comments on his Twitter feed and has supported several Tennessee Democratic candidates through benefit concerts, including former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean during Dean’s 2018 gubernatorial run.