ChangeMemphis, a coalition voter education effort of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, New Path Memphis and Concerned Memphians United, is working to alert residents of Shelby County to problems with voter registrations. In a controversial move, the Tenn. State Coordinator of Elections, Mr. Brook Thompson, has ruled that any voter registration form that does not include the full nine digits of a person’s Social Security number will be rejected. We are asking that our state legislators and community members contact Brook Thompson at the Tenn. Election Commission, at (615) 741-7956 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the state of Tennessee have registered using the last four digits of their Social security number due to concerns about identity theft and rights to privacy. The Federal Trade Commission reports that in 2006 alone more than 3,700 Tennesseans were victims of identity theft. In a recent example, the Social Security numbers of more than 337,000 voters were stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission.
ChangeMemphis strongly disagrees with Mr. Thompson’s ruling and is working to challenge this violation of the public’s right to privacy. Brad Watkins, Organizing Coordinator with the ChangeMemphis Coalition stated, “ We do not understand the reasoning behind denying these citizens the right to vote. The last four digits of your Social Security number is accepted in both Mississippi and Arkansas, our closest neighbors, as well as under federal law. So we know there’s no reason why Tennessee needs all 9 digits to properly identify voters and prevent fraud.
The point of Social Security info is to distinguish between different individuals with the same name and this purpose is served when the last four digits are given. But because of the frequency of recent high-profile reports of identity theft, some voters are understandably reluctant to provide their full Social Security number to anyone. Requiring the full Social Security number unnecessarily hinders voter access to registration. This is troubling anytime, but particularly where, as here, the legitimate purposes for requiring Social Security info seem to be equally served by allowing the last 4 digits.
Furthermore, we believe that this strict interpretation of state law is yet another tactic of voter disenfranchisement used against impoverished and at-risk voters in Tennessee. We are asking our community members and elected representatives to contact Mr. Thompson now and urge him to let every eligible Tennessean vote and to let people register with the safer method of listing only the last four digits of his or her Social Security number. Contact Brook Thompson at the Tenn. Election Commission, at (615) 741-7956 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Community members may also contact their local election commissions to inquire about this issue and encourage their local election commissioners to call Mr. Thompson.
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
1000 S. Cooper St.
Memphis, TN 38104