NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Davidson County election training session is coming under scrutiny for teaching poll workers to challenge voters they believe may not be U.S. citizens.
Davidson County Election Commissioner Eddie Bryan, a Democrat, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/R1l8yV) he believes the training was designed to block immigrants from legally voting. But Republican election officials said it was designed to teach poll workers how to deal with a potential challenge.
Under the state's Challenge the Right to Vote Act, poll workers may ask a voter to take an oath stating that they have the right to vote. Those refusing the oath cannot vote.
The training last month told poll workers that citizenship requires the ability to read, write and speak basic English, but it noted exceptions for immigrants over 50 and those with impairments.
Davidson County Administrator of Elections Albert Tieche told the newspaper that poll workers frequently ask during their training about whether noncitizens are allowed to vote.
In the training video, Tieche tells poll workers, "If you believe someone is not a citizen, the Challenge the Right to Vote would be the process you go through.
"But I will tell you that I have voted several people in Davidson County who don't speak a word of English and they are, indeed, citizens. It does happen. You would need to have some sort of objective evidence that a person was not a citizen before you want to make any kind of challenge."
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and watchdog group Tennessee Citizen Action held a news conference on Wednesday to express concerns about the training.
"Hassling registered voters because they have an accent infringes on the very right we need to protect — the right to vote," Coalition spokesman Eben Cathey said. "New Americans should be encouraged to participate in the civic process, not be looked upon with unnecessary suspicion because of how they sound."
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
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