The Aug. 6 primaries are here, and already, we have seen a substantial increase in voter turnout in communities across our state. In fact, through the first 10 days of the early voting period, 383,129 Tennesseans have exercised their constitutional right to vote — an increase of more than 214,000 from the same period in 2016.
Over the last several years, my colleagues and I have partnered with Secretary of State Tre Hargett, as well as our statewide and local officials to make it easier than ever for legal residents to participate in the electoral process. This includes approving legislation that allows eligible citizens to register online, and increasing the number of college voter registration drives in Tennessee. We have also provided additional Election Day location options for voters in some counties through a pilot project, and we have improved the sharing of information related to voter-specific election information through the GoVoteTN application, provided by the Secretary of State’s office.
To better preserve the integrity of the ballot box, we have passed measures that ensure voters use only certain state or federal issued photo identification for voting purposes, and we have required citizens to present qualified photographic identification when they head to the polls. Additionally, we have implemented procedures to identify and remove non-citizens from voter rolls, and we have created $1,000 fines for certain voter fraud offenses, while also establishing $1,000 rewards for information resulting in a fraud conviction. We have worked to ensure accuracy of all voter lists to improve polling location efficiency, and we have used jury lists to assist in identifying ineligible voters. Finally, we have established voter registration drive training opportunities to ensure citizens accurately and timely register, so they can participate.
I applaud Secretary Hargett, his team, and our election officials for their hard work and dedication to address these issues over the last few years, as well as their ongoing efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. All have worked tirelessly to ensure voters can both safely and conveniently cast their ballots — both in previous years, as well as during these extraordinary times. New precautions this year like plexiglass dividers, masks, gowns, face shields and gloves for workers, as well as limited contact with surfaces and the continued implementation of social distancing and deep cleaning will undoubtedly preserve the health and safety of all who visit our polling precincts, as well as our election workers and volunteers, while strengthening protections focused on election integrity.
As we all prepare to let our voices be heard in the days, weeks, and months ahead, let’s remember our nation’s founding fathers, who bestowed extraordinary liberties and freedoms upon each of us that no other country in this world have ever seen before. We should also remember the many generations of men and women — including my grandfather — who fought to defend these liberties and freedoms that are the bedrock of our great nation. Let’s respect their sacrifice and honor them by heading to the polls Thursday, Aug. 6, and on Tuesday, Nov. 3 for the general election.
William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. He is also a member of the House Finance, House Government Operations, and House Calendar & Rules Committees, as well as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.