TSEL wins “blackout ban” lawsuit against Tennessee

October 12, 2018

Nashville, Tennessee – Yesterday, Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-10-117—a state law that bans direct campaign contributions from nonpartisan PACs, but not partisan speakers, within ten days of an election—violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  The Chancellor’s order permanently enjoins election officials from enforcing the law going forward.

“The 2016 elections underscored the importance of the final days of every campaign,” said David M. Morelli, Jr., Treasurer for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws.  “The forced funneling of citizens into partisan divisions in order to participate fully in our democracy violates both the First Amendment and common sense.”

“Elected officials and political parties cannot lawfully censor disfavored political speakers while reserving special treatment in the political process for themselves,” said Daniel Horwitz, lead counsel for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws. “In securing this groundbreaking win, we are proud to have made Tennessee’s democratic process just a little bit freer.”

In reaching her ruling, Chancellor Lyle relied on the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 19 of the Tennessee Constitution.  Striking down Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-10-117 as unconstitutional, the Court ruled that the law: (1) discriminates based on the identity of the speaker, (2) unlawfully restricts the timing of campaign contributions, (3) discriminates based on a speaker’s political association, and (4) discriminates based on the content of political speech.  The Chancellor’s Memorandum and Order are available at the following link: https://danielhorwitz.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/TSEL-Memorandum-Order.pdf

Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws is a non-partisan PAC and advocacy group that seeks to protect all Tennesseans’ rights to participate in the political process without unreasonable interference from the state government.  The group was represented by Nashville election lawyers Daniel Horwitz and Jamie Hollin.  Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws has vowed to defend its victory on appeal.

“The march toward election freedom continues here in Tennessee,” said Morelli.