November 13, 2016

November 13, 2016 | Commentary on Elections, Rule of Law

Did Justin Timberlake Commit Voter Fraud in Tennessee?

Yesterday, CNN reported that Justin Timberlake took a selfie while voting early in Memphis, Tenn., which raises the question of whether he violated a new state law that prohibits taking photos or videos in a polling place. But the network missed the more important question of whether Timberlake committed voter fraud by voting in Tennessee.

Why? Because according to the CNN article, even though Timberlake is originally from Memphis, today “he lives in California.” Timberlake owns a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom home in the Hollywood Hills that he bought for more than $8 million in 2002, which is “his primary residence,” according to a celebrity website. Before that, he owned a home in Orlando, Fla.

State election laws require you to be a resident of a state in order to vote there. According to the website of the Tennessee Secretary of State, Tre Hargett, the guidelines for determining residency in Tennessee for the purposes of being legally registered to vote including the following factors:

  • The residence of a person is the place where the person’s habitation is fixed and is where, during periods of absence, the person definitely intends to return.
  • A person can have only one residence.
  • Other factors that may be considered are the person’s possession, acquisition or surrender of inhabitable property.

Timberlake has apparently not lived in Memphis for many years and the home he lives in as his residence is in California, not Memphis. The CNN article says that Timberlake owns property in Nashville, but he wasn’t voting in Nashville and there is no indication whether the property he owns is commercial property, which cannot be used to establish residency. Thus, when the residency factors are applied to Timberlake, he does not appear to meet the requirements to be registered and voting in Memphis.

The CNN story is full of fans excited that Timberlake came to Memphis to vote. But given the fact that he does not appear to meet the legal requirements to vote there, local law enforcement may want to look into this. This is especially true if he also violated state law barring photographs from being taken inside a polling place, which is intended both to protect the secrecy of the ballot box and to prevent voters who have been offered money to vote for particular candidates from getting proof that they voted the way they were bribed to vote.

Timberlake’s possible improper registration in Tennessee is symptomatic of a larger problem — a voter-registration system that is filled with inaccurate, duplicate, and ineligible registrations.

 Four years ago, the Pew Center on the States released a study indicating that approximately 24 million voter registrations in the United States – one of every eight – are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. That includes more than 1.8 million deceased individuals still listed as voters (some of whom continue to vote) and 2.75 million registered in more than one state.

Just recently, Pasco Parker, a 63-year-old Tennessee resident, was convicted of felony voting fraud and felony voter registration for voting in three different states during the 2012 election, including in Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina. In 2012, Linda Brewer was convicted of illegal voting in Union County, Tennessee, a class E felony; in 2011, Gayle Copeland was convicted of false registration and illegal voting in Davison County, Tennessee. These and hundreds of other cases are on the Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud database.

All of these illegal votes canceled the votes of legitimate voters, and if Justin Timberlake voted illegally in Memphis, he also negated the vote of a legitimate resident of Tennessee. While we can joke about celebrity hijinks (and Timberlake has certainly had his share of those), voter fraud is no joking matter. No one should be allowed to get away with such fraud, no matter who they are. Even Justin Timberlake.

About the Author

Hans A. von Spakovsky Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow
Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

Related Issues: Elections, Rule of Law

This piece first appeared in the National Review.