Civic Engagement

Amy Got Purged: How Systemic Purging of the Voter Roles Plays Out in Tennessee

“Once properly registered to vote in Tennessee, a person remains permanently registered unless the election commission must remove the registration from its records as a result of acts that require purging a voter. T.C.A. 2-2-105 and 2-2-106.”

“Purging” or cleaning up the voter roles by eliminating a formerly registered voter from the roles makes sense if the voter has died or moved out of out of the area, but systematic purging of the voter roles just because the voter failed to vote in the last few elections is creating a trap for well intentioned voters limiting their ability to participate in the democratic process.

Natasha and I happened to be in Jackson, Tennessee for the April 17th Rural Tennessee Gubernatorial Forum. We chose to spend the night to visit downtown Jackson and see the Sue Shelton White monument, and enjoyed a traditional Tennessee breakfast at The Baker’s Rack on East Lafayette Street. Our waitress was Amy. Amy was recently purged.


You see Amy has a habit of faithfully voting in presidential elections but she skips elections in the intervening years. Well, in Tennessee, if you miss two elections, the Secretary of State can purge you from the roles.


The problem for Amy is compounded by not knowing that she had been purged, so when she did show up to vote on election day, she discovered she was no longer registered. Since voter registration must occur 30 days in advance of election day, Amy was out of luck.

It may be that the Secretary of State’s office sent something in the mail to Amy to let her know that she had been purged and to encourage her to re-register to vote. If so, it is likely that this notice was not opened and read. Maybe Amy thought it was just another piece of junk mail?

The spirit of the law, however, is that Tennessee citizens are registered to vote permanently. Should not the reason for purging a voter from the roles be a higher standard than simply failing to vote in the last two elections?


[1] Tennessee Secretary of State Web Site:

[2] Sue Shelton White was a suffragette, lawyer and activist from the early 1900’s who played a significant role in securing the vote for women in the United States.

Published on April 6, 2018 5:00pm

John Deane

Article By

John Deane

Born in Baltimore in 1961, John attended American University. For 32 years, John led a successful career as a senior healthcare executive. In 1998 John founded Southwind Health Partners, a start-up healthcare business focused on providing management services for hospital and health system sponsored physician practices out of his home in Nashville and over 20 years grew the business into one of the nation’s pre-eminent healthcare consulting practices. Following the acquisition of Southwind by Advisory Board John led the development of an expansive, full-service consulting and management division serving over 250 health system clients in 50 states with approximately 400 consultants and staff.

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