Tennessee’s New Residency Election Law Is Unconstitutional

“Tennessee has fought in more wars than any other state. From Davy Crocket, to Robert E. Lee and beyond, Tennessee patriots defended their turf, southern pride and our nation.”-James Agee

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By William Haupt III [Tennessee Watchdog Journalist, Columnist, Author, and Citizen Legislator] –

When the Civil War began in 1861, Tennessee had little interest in secession. Tennesseans did not rely on slave labor and were content being left alone. When the state voted to secede in February 1861, Tennesseans overwhelmingly rejected it. It was not until June of 1861 when Abraham Lincoln conscripted Tennessee soldiers to fight for the North that Tennessee held a 2nd vote and seceded.

Tennessee was the last state to leave the union, and the first state to rejoin the union. Tennessee controls its own fate. During the War of 1812, they sent 1500 troops to deliver a victory to Andrew Jackson. In 1846 they sent 2,800 soldiers to avenge the death of Davy Crocket and fight for Texas independence and statehood in the Mexican-American War. Tennessee writes the rules it plays by. 

Tennessee’s independence and willingness to answer the call to duty when others failed to show support for a cause greater than their own, christened them, “The Volunteer State.” After the Civil War, throughout Reconstruction and beyond, Tennessee has marched to the beat of its own drum. True to tradition, Tennessee lawmakers recently passed a law challenging the U.S. Constitution.   

After the Civil War, Tennessee, like other Southern States remained solidly Democrat. But not like other Southern states, Tennessee Democrats were “blue-dogs” not segregationists. And as more Northern Republicans moved south for economic opportunity, the state soon became Republican. 

The problem in states where one party dominates the politics, especially in those with Republican trifectas, is, those eager for a political career run as members of that trifecta. And this disingenuous practice results in “RINOS”—“Republicans in name only”, invading the state and local legislatures. 

RINOS tell voters, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and they are trying to protect them from themselves. More times than not they pass laws that enable them to keep good, “anti-establishment” politicians off of the ballot, fearing voters will replace them with real Republicans.  

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On April 13, 2022 Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee, allowed SB2616 to become law without signing it? This simply means he considered the bill too controversial to admit he approved it. It requires anyone running for Congress to have lived in the state for three years to run in primaries. 

The new residency requirement is unconstitutional and undemocratic. The U.S. Constitution sets forth eligibility requirements for the U.S. House. Under Article I, Section 2, a representative must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, at least 25 years old, and must live in the state they represent. Neither Congress, nor a state may impose additional eligibility office requirements.

Considering the law is notoriously unlawful, voters can’t help wondering what suddenly inspired the Tennessee General Assembly to add this blatantly illegal requirement to the state’s eligibility rules for national elections? The answer is more obvious than finding fleas on a Tennessee hound dog! 

The results from a recent national Emory election poll revealed that Donald Trump sustains an over 50% approval rating in every Southern state, all well as in key mid-western, western and northern states, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Oklahoma, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. And in almost all these states, Trump backed candidates are ahead in their primaries or have already won them.

Although Donald Trump has “star power” in Tennessee and there has been standing room only at every venue where he has appeared in the Volunteer State, RINOS are working overtime to protect their turf from Donald Trump backed candidates. They are rewriting federal election laws to do this. 

One of 12 Republican primary candidates running in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District to replace Democrat House Rep. Jim Cooper, is Morgan Ortagus. She moved here from Washington, D.C., in early 2021 to launch Rubicon Founders, a new value based healthcare investment firm.

Ortagus worked two years for the Trump administration’s U.S. State Department. She is a proven conservative dedicated to protecting the core intrinsic values of the Republican Party. And Donald Trump eagerly endorsed Morgan Ortagus long before she announced she was running. Now that SB2616 knocked Ortagus out of the race, the establishment and the left are singing “Kumbaya.”  


In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear when they ruled on Term Limits v. Thornton, that an  Arkansas law barring anyone from being placed on the ballot for a congressional seat if they had already served three terms in the U.S. House was unconstitutional. The court concluded; “states do not have authority to impose any qualifications on candidates other than those in the Constitution.”

In reaching its decision, the Court cited a long list of prior decisions striking down district residency requirements. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the state in Chavez v. Evans: “The constitutional qualifications for membership in the lower house of Congress exclude any and all other qualifications. A state can’t add additional requirements to them to disqualify a candidate.”

Even those who were taught common core civics can comprehend that SB2616 has no chance of surviving a legal challenge. The Supreme Court has over-ruled every challenge by every state that cited their 10th amendment rights allowing them to change the requirements for federal elections.

As expected, three 5th District residents have already filed a lawsuit against the state. It looks like Tennessee learned nothing from Dunn v. Blumstein? In 1971, Tennessee ended up in the Supreme Court fighting a suit filed by Vanderbilt law professor James Blumstein. The Court ruled that a new law requiring that people had to reside here for a year before they could vote was unconstitutional.  

The purpose of Article I of the Constitution delineating qualifications for Congressmen was simply to preserve the right of selection exclusively for the voters and not for any state or federal political party or government. Regardless of how state legislatures think about any candidate, the decision as to who represents any congressional district is a Constitutional right that belongs to voters only. 

RINOs will continue to pass legislation to keep true conservatives out of office. For Tennessee to remain a trend setting conservative state and protector of our 10th Amendment rights, voters must elect “real conservatives”. Tennessee’s greatest threat is not from federalism. It will self-destruct if voters continue to fill local and state legislatures with RINOs instead of electing real conservatives.  

“In the South, patriotism and conservative politics are as natural as sweet tea and country music. Anyone who questions or tries to change these traditions is not a true southerner.” -Walker Tracy

William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13. His work also appears in The Center SquareThe Western JournalNeighbor NewspapersKPXJ 21 (Shreveport, LA)Killeen Daily HeraldAberdeen American NewsInsideNovaKankakee Daily JournalMonterey County WeeklyOlean Times HeraldThe Greeneville Sun and more. Follow William on Twitter @iii_haupt.

8 thoughts on “Tennessee’s New Residency Election Law Is Unconstitutional

  • May 24, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    I never knew. I thank you every day for the information you bring to the table. Tennessee needed YOU years ago and maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in. I don’t know how you manage to produce what you do but, I thank you for it. Wish I could keep up.

    • May 25, 2022 at 1:11 am

      Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for supporting the Tennessee Conservative. We value the opinions and input from our readers and strive to keep them informed.

  • May 24, 2022 at 5:36 pm

    Who was leading the charge on this? Our own Conservitive Senator from Strawberry Plains Frank Nicely. True conservative? Or just another “GOOD OLE BOY”or maybe RINO?

    Thank you for getting Tennessee into another Supreme Court case.

    Why is it that our state legislators can’t understand what the Constitution of the United States of America says about many things that they ignore.

  • May 24, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    Be careful what U wish for. While SB2616 may lock out Conservatives it also locks out Democrats from moving someone in from another state, put them in a hotel to establish residency and run in our election when they feel threatened. Take a look at Woke Atlanta. It’s Woke cuz Hollywood moved in overnight.

    • May 25, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      Conservatives do not vote for Democrats if they are on the ballot. They have a right to be there if the qualify. Every conservative in this state is going to cast their vote for a true conservative Republican and not a Democrat. This bill is unconstitutional as the author clearly points out, and Tennessee will lose it in the Supreme Court like all other federal election laws that states have tried to change.

  • May 25, 2022 at 10:48 am

    I favor SB2616, against carpetbaggers of any flavor.
    Anyone not raised in TN doesn’t need to be legislating “for” TN.
    Wonder how long it’s been since the public has seen Ortagus’ real face?
    DJT has made many dubious appointments/endorsements.

  • May 25, 2022 at 2:15 pm

    It does not matter if people like this bill or not. It was passed to keep candidates off of the ballot that RINOS feel are a threat to their liberal agenda—nothing else. As the journalist clearly points out, this bill will never pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. Anyone who likes this bill and is jumping up and down for joy, does not know their Constitution. SCOTUS and struck down every state law that tried to change federal election laws that are inscribed in the US Constitution and govern this republic. Heritage Foundation just came out with a piece on this very bill condemning it as unconstitutional. We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Constitution that we choose to follow. Only Liberals and progressives do that. The purpose of Article I of the Constitution was written to preserve the right of selection for federal office seekers exclusively for the voters without influence from political parties or any state government choosing them for them. They even teach this is common core civics classes.

  • August 2, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    A warning to all Tennesseans!

    Beware and get rid of RINOS/ Establishment Old Boy Republicans! Whatever it takes.

    THEY and they alone are why once conservative California is Leftist/ Democrat!!

    Gov Pete Wilson was a leader frighteningly similar to Gov Lee, bless his heart. He sounded good, seemed like the best alternative but couldn’t help himself from sliding inch by inch left … and becoming a RINO at heart. And it was he and Gov Deukmejian who truly laid the foundation of California’s destruction. The milk toast, not conservative, Republicans they were called.

    I’m pleading, as a Southern California native conservative refugee, please don’t vote for “weak” republicans or RINOS or anyone not conservative. They will destroy Tennessee! It’s a bitter death, trust me.


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