Group Claims Nashville Poll Workers Being Taught To Turn Voters Away
by Chris Conte
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A group of voter's right advocates say they are concern training being given to Davidson County poll workers may teach them to turn away voters simply because they can't speak English.
"Poll workers have been trained by the election commission to judge them (voters) by how they sound and how they look to determine their citizenship," explained Eben Cathy of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.
Cathy's claims are based on a Powerpoint slide shown to poll workers who were trained in Davidson County earlier this month. On the slide, one bullet point states that only US Citizens who are Tennessee residents may vote. Below that are the words "naturalized citizenship require reading, writing, speaking basic English."
The problem Cathy says is that statement discriminate against legal US citizens who may not be able to speak perfect English.
"It is not within poll watchers responsibility to even think about citizenship and especially not judge someone on how they sound or how they look. Their citizenship is already known, that's known because they've already registered to vote," he explained.
"they are in fact jeopardizing the right of eligible Davidson County voters to cast their ballot," added Hedy Weinberg of the ACLU.
But the Davidson County Election Commissioners believe this whole thing is being taken out of context.
"Our poll workers have asked us in the past, what if somebody doesn't speak any English, don't they have to speak English to be a citizen? So we say, well there is a law but there are exceptions to that law," explained Albert Tieche who is the administrator of elections for the county.
Tieche says that Powerpoint slide only exists because of questions they've gotten poll workers in the past. He says his office does not train poll workers to discriminate voters based on their ability to speak, read or write English.
"If you're a citizen and you're registered, come on, please come vote. We're doing everything we can to get people out to vote."