TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Suzanne Craig Robertson on Oct 30, 2012

When new Yale Law graduate and native New Yorker Jim Blumstein moved to Nashville in 1970 to begin his job on Vanderbilt University’s law faculty, one of the first things he did was register to vote for the upcoming primary. But he was denied that right under a provision of Tennessee law that required new residents to live in the state for one year. Blumstein filed suit against the state, claiming that the requirement violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. He also insisted on filing a provisional ballot in a sealed envelope -- now a federal requirement when an individual's voting rights are disputed, but a process he "invented on the spot" so his vote could be counted if his suit prevailed. The case, Dunn v. Blumstein, went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1972, the court found that Tennessee’s one-year minimum residency rule violated the Constitution. Vanderbilt Lawyer has this story about Blumstein, still a professor at the school, and how he helped change Tennessee's voting rights law.