ACLU of Tennessee Files Lawsuit to Protect Retirees’ Voting Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
November 7, 2007 12:00 am

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ACLU of Tennessee
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Seniors Living Full-time in Recreational Vehicles Purged From Voting Rolls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of senior citizens living full-time in their recreational vehicles who were purged from Tennessee voting rolls because they registered to vote using the street address of a commercial mail forwarding service.

“American citizens should not be disqualified from voting simply because of their lifestyle choice to travel. Denying citizens the right to vote flies in the face of our democracy,” said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of full-time RV residents Ronald Teel, Leone Teel and John Layton. An ACLU Freedom of Information Act request revealed that over 250 people, including the plaintiffs, have lost their right to vote in Bradley County, Tennessee.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were purged from Bradley County voting rolls after passage of a 2005 state law that said commercial addresses could not be used for voting purposes.

The plaintiffs are retirees from military and government service who currently live in their recreational vehicles while traveling throughout the country. They consider Tennessee their home, return periodically and intend to return full-time when they stop traveling. They use a commercial mail forwarding service as their Tennessee address.

“We live full-time in a motor home so we may travel this great nation in our retirement instead of rotting away in a rocking chair or a rest home. Our cherished right to vote should not be infringed because of our choice to travel or because we choose to live in a recreational vehicle rather than a structured building,” said Ronald Teel, one of the clients in the case.

Over the past 18 months, senior citizens purged from the voting rolls have tried unsuccessfully to restore their voting rights. After repeated attempts to resolve the situation failed, they requested that the ACLU of Tennessee intervene. In the lawsuit, the ACLU alleges that the plaintiffs have been and continue to be denied their fundamental right to vote in violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.

“Our plaintiffs have devoted their lives to public service and are now are being told they cannot vote because they live full-time in their RVs. Taking away their voting rights is no way to show thanks for their years of patriotic service and is tantamount to denying their citizenship,” said Tricia Herzfeld, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Tennessee.

The lawsuit, Tee v. Darnel, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and asks the Court to declare the law unconstitutional and to ensure that the plaintiffs are allowed to vote in Tennessee.

The case was filed against Riley Darnell, Secretary of State; Brook Thompson, Coordinator of Elections for the State of Tennessee; the Bradley County Election Commission; Fran Green, Administrator of Elections for Bradley County, Tennessee; and Kalin Morris, the Assistant Administrator of Elections for Bradley County, Tennessee.

A copy of the complaint can be found online at:
wwwaclu-tn.org/pdfs/RV_Voters_Complaint.pdf

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