Judge blasts Tennessee voter registration law, warns it could create 'chilling effect'

The new law would fine groups for too many incomplete registration forms.
Suzanne Lanier
A woman holds up a sign in the House gallery as she and others oppose a bill pushed by the Tennessee Secretary of State that would impose new restrictions on groups that hold voter registration drives on April 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.Mark Humphrey / AP file

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By Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge handed down tough criticism on Tennessee's new restrictions for signing up voters while refusing to dismiss a legal challenge surrounding the new law set to take effect in October.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Monday that the law would likely create a "chilling effect" on organizations and individuals who seek to register new voters in Tennessee.

The new law is likely the first nationally to fine groups for too many incomplete registration forms. It includes misdemeanor charges for other intentional infractions of new rules. It says only paid groups could be penalized, though the legal filing contends the distinction is unclear.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett has argued adding penalties bolsters election security. His office didn't immediately return a request for comment.