A Black lawmaker briefly expelled from the Tennessee Statehouse will remain on the 2024 ballot


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One of the two Black lawmakers briefly expelled from Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Statehouse last year will remain on the 2024 ballot after overcoming a challenge from a Republican opponent.

Earlier this year, Rep. Justin Jones submitted 26 signatures to Nashville election officials in order to qualify to run as a Democratic candidate. He needed at least 25 signatures from verified voters in his district.

After one of Jones’ signatures was disqualified, Republican challenger Laura Nelson filed a complaint challenging the validity of 10 others.

At a late Thursday meeting, Nelson questioned the authenticity of the list of signatures, noting that at least one of the names on it had been misspelled while another name appeared as a signature when it should have been printed.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t know how to spell our own name, we should not be signing this legal document,” Nelson said, prompting many of Jones’ supporters in the crowd to boo and yell.

Jones countered that he had had each person in question sign and submit a notarized affidavit to the Davidson County Election Commission. Some of those who signed the petition testified in front of the commission at Thursday’s meeting.

Jones called Nelson’s challenge “frivolous” and said it was the latest indication of a “pattern of political harassment.”

Commission members ultimately voted 3-1 to approve Jones’ signatures. One member abstained.

Nelson promised to appeal. Meanwhile, commission chair Jim DeLanis urged Jones to gather more signatures next time he runs for political office.

The Republican-controlled Tennessee House ousted Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson, a fellow young Black Democrat, last April over their megaphone-amplified protest on the House floor calling for gun control just days after six people were killed in a shooting at a Christian elementary school. Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, was spared from expulsion for her role in the demonstration by one vote.

Jones and Pearson were quickly reappointed back to their positions and then reelected in special elections.



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