The landscape in Tennessee
In many states, Election Denier officials are moving to restrict resources and funding support to local election administrators, further hampering state and local offices that are already underfunded.
Tennessee is one such state. Gov. Bill Lee, an Election Denier, signed the ban into effect in May 2021.
Tennessee is also an example of how Election Denier behavior is often a local problem, not just a state problem. In the city of Franklin, Gabrielle Hanson lost the 2023 mayor’s race in a landslide—a 4-to-1 margin. She then went on a podcast with Arizona’s Mark Finchem, one of the country’s notorious Election Deniers, and spouted just about every election conspiracy theory in the book. It fell to county election officials, as it has to so many local election officials across the country, to patiently discredit the claims.
Seven members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted to overturn 2020 election results.
1 Election Denier holds statewide Office right now.
Elections are run by the states. The Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State are the state officials responsible for overseeing elections. In Tennessee, the Secretary of State is appointed by the legislature. It’s up to them to make sure the will of the people is always respected.
Read more about The Roles of Our Elected Officials in Elections
Governor of Tennessee
Term started 2023
Term ends 2027
Refused to concede a race, or publicly supported a candidate’s refusal to concede a race, after the results were officially audited or stood up to multiple legal challenges.
Falsely claimed former President Trump won the 2020 presidential election instead of the legitimate winner, President Biden.
Spread lies or promoted conspiracies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles in public, including in social media, press statements, or comments to the press.
Refused to certify, or called on or pressured election officials to refuse to certify, the 2020 presidential election results or a race in subsequent elections based on meritless claims about election fraud, voter fraud, misinformation, or lies.
Taken action to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles, including:
Filing or supporting litigation seeking to overturn the results based on conspiracies or baseless legal theories.
Filing or supporting litigation that was sanctioned for being malicious or without merit in the aftermath of an election.
Promoting or participating in a Stop the Steal–sponsored or branded event or rally during or following the 2020 election.
Calling for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election or a race in subsequent elections after the results were certified, were officially audited, or stood up to multiple legal challenges.
How Tennessee compares
Every state runs its own elections, with its own laws and processes. Check out how Tennessee compares with other states in its region when it comes to Election Deniers holding state election administration jobs.
Election Denial in Southeast States
Sitting official is an Election Denier
- In Florida, the Governor appoints the Secretary of State. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is an Election Denier and appointed Cord Byrd as Florida’s Secretary of State in May 2022.
- In North Carolina, the Executive Director is appointed by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
- In South Carolina, the Executive Director is appointed by the South Carolina Election Commission.
- In Tennessee, the Secretary of State is appointed by the legislature.
- In Virginia, the Governor appoints the Commissioner of Elections.
Voter turnout over time
Voters are always the backstop against election denial, whether Election Deniers are already in office or vying for power. It’s important to turn out for every election in your state—and to vote in every race on your ballot. Downballot races, like contests for Attorney General and Secretary of State, have historically drawn fewer voters, even though the positions are critical to keeping elections free, fair, and secure. Here’s a look at voter participation in Tennessee elections over time. Notice that in years with several important positions up for election, some voters choose not to vote in every race.
Data on the number of votes cast in each race are from state elections depositories, supplemented with data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), House Election Statistics, and The Book of States. Rates are calculated using the Census’s Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) estimates. Rates will be updated when the Census releases new CVAP data for 2022.
Beyond the ballot box
Each year, state legislators introduce thousands of bills related to elections. And in the past few years, we’ve identified a concerning trend. Across the country, state legislatures are considering bills that would make it easier for partisan actors to manipulate an election, and maybe even overturn the will of the people. We’re tracking these bills along with our partners in an ongoing series of reports called “A Democracy Crisis in the Making.” In 2023 alone, through early May, we tracked 185 bills introduced in 38 state legislatures that would politicize, criminalize, or interfere with elections.
The anti-democracy playbook is simple: change the rules and change the referees, in order to change the results. These bills go hand-in-hand with the Election Denier movement: They’re about taking power away from voters and making it harder for trusted election officials to do their jobs.