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Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest

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Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest
News

News

Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest

2024-05-22 11:38 Last Updated At:11:40

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people died Tuesday and at least a dozen were injured when a powerful tornado tore through a small Iowa town, carving a bleak landscape of destroyed homes and businesses, shredded trees, smashed cars, and widely strewn debris.

The tornado destroyed much of Greenfield, a town of about 2,000 around 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines, during a day that saw multiple tornadoes, giant hail and heavy rain in several states.

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The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people died Tuesday and at least a dozen were injured when a powerful tornado tore through a small Iowa town, carving a bleak landscape of destroyed homes and businesses, shredded trees, smashed cars, and widely strewn debris.

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A man sorts through the remains of a tornado-damaged home, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A man sorts through the remains of a tornado-damaged home, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of two tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of two tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers stand near a home destroyed by a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers stand near a home destroyed by a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to the window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to the window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image taken from video provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to a window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image taken from video provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to a window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail surrounding a vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail surrounding a vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

Workers clean out shattered glass at the Wells Fargo building as clean up from the previous week's storm continues in downtown Houston, Monday, May 20, 2024. The city closed off streets in a six-block exclusion zone downtown, from McKinney to Polk and from Smith to Travis to ease traffic around the area where broken glass and debris are prevalent. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Workers clean out shattered glass at the Wells Fargo building as clean up from the previous week's storm continues in downtown Houston, Monday, May 20, 2024. The city closed off streets in a six-block exclusion zone downtown, from McKinney to Polk and from Smith to Travis to ease traffic around the area where broken glass and debris are prevalent. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A police officer and an employee of nearby Dingman's Collision Center push a car that had been caught in flood waters in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

A police officer and an employee of nearby Dingman's Collision Center push a car that had been caught in flood waters in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

An early-morning storm knock tree branches onto the Pacific Street sign on 42nd Street in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

An early-morning storm knock tree branches onto the Pacific Street sign on 42nd Street in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Heavy machinery clears debris washed out by flooding from nearby construction sites in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Heavy machinery clears debris washed out by flooding from nearby construction sites in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Water pours out of a parking lot onto the ground in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Water pours out of a parking lot onto the ground in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

“We do have confirmed fatalities,” Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said at a news conference Tuesday night. He said authorities were still determining the total number but thought they had accounted for all of the town's residents.

Dinkla said there were at least a dozen injuries amid widespread devastation in Greenfield, including at the community's small hospital. Patients there had to be transferred to other facilities in nearby cities.

Authorities said they would only allow residents to enter Greenfield until Wednesday morning and ordered media representatives to leave the city Tuesday night.

In the aftermath of the storm, parts of Greenfield appeared devastated. Mounds of broken wood, branches, car parts and other debris littered lots where homes once stood. Cars lay busted and bent while damaged houses sat skewed against the gray and overcast sky. Trees stood — barely — bereft of branches or leaves. Residents helped each other salvage furniture and other belongings from mounds of debris or from homes barely left standing.

Rogue Paxton said he sheltered in the basement of his home when the storm moved through. He told WOI-TV he thought the house was lost but said his family got lucky.

“But everyone else is not so much, like my brother Cody, his house just got wiped,” Paxton said. “Then you see all these people out here helping each other. ... Everything’s going to be fine because we have each other, but it’s just going to be really, really rough. It is a mess."

Multiple tornadoes were reported throughout the state, and one also apparently took down several 250-foot (76-meter) wind turbines in southwest Iowa. Some of the turbines caught fire, sending plumes of smoke into the air and continued to smolder hours later.

Wind farms are built to withstand tornadoes, hurricanes and other powerful winds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turbines are designed to shut off when winds exceed certain thresholds, typically around 55 mph (88.5 kph). They also lock and feather their blades, and turn into the wind, to minimize the strain.

The town bills itself as “the friendly wave as you walk” type of place with tree-lined streets — before the storm — and “the crack of the fireworks or twinkle of the lights” on special holidays. Also touting itself as the “perfect place to grow,” Greenfield prides itself on being a town where business owners know your name and neighbors help neighbors, according to its visitors page.

Mary Long, the owner of Long’s Market in downtown Greenfield, said she rode out the storm at her business in the community’s historic town square, which largely escaped damage. Long said there appeared to be widespread damage on the east and south sides of town.

“I could hear this roaring, like the proverbial freight train, and then it was just done,” she said.

Camille Blair said the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce office where she works closed around 2 p.m. ahead of the storm. She emerged from her home to describe widespread damage and scattered debris.

“There’s a pretty significant roof damage to several houses that I know will need whole new roofs," she said. "And I can see from my house it kind of went in a straight line down the road.”

In far southwestern Iowa, video posted to social media showed a tornado just northwest of Red Oak. Further east and north, the National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings for areas near the towns of Griswold, Corning, Fontanelle and Guthrie Center, among others.

Iowa was already braced for severe weather after the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center gave most of the state a high chance of seeing severe thunderstorms with the potential for strong tornadoes. Des Moines public schools ended classes two hours early and canceled all evening activities ahead of the storms.

The storms and tornado warnings moved into Wisconsin Tuesday evening and night, including a warning for the state's capital city of Madison.

Earlier in the day, residents to the west in Omaha, Nebraska, awoke to weather sirens blaring and widespread power outages as torrential rain, high winds and large hail pummeled the area. The deluge flooded basements and submerged cars. Television station KETV showed firefighters arriving to rescue people from vehicles.

In Illinois, dust storms forced authorities to shut down stretches of two interstates due to low visibility. Winds gusts of between 35 mph (56 kph) and 45 mph (74 kph) hit the McLean area, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Schaffer.

“There is no visibility at times,” state police posted on the social media platform X.

The storms followed days of extreme weather that have ravaged much of the middle section of the country. Strong winds, large hail and tornadoes swept parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Sunday, damaging homes and injuring two in Oklahoma.

Another round of storms Monday night raked Colorado and western Nebraska and saw the city of Yuma, Colorado, blanketed in hail the size of baseballs and golf balls, turning streets into rivers of water and ice. Front-end loaders were used to move half-foot (15.24-centimeter) deep hail Tuesday.

Last week, deadly storms hit the Houston area in Texas, killing at least eight people. Those storms Thursday knocked out power to hundreds of thousands for days, leaving those Texans in the dark and without air conditioning during hot and humid weather. The total of deaths was raised Tuesday from seven to include a man who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while running a generator after his power went out. Hurricane-force winds reduced businesses and other structures to debris and shattered glass in downtown skyscrapers.

Tuesday's storms were expected to bring much of the same high winds, heavy rain and large hail to Minnesota and part of northern Missouri, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

He said the system is expected to turn south on Wednesday, bringing more severe weather to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Missouri.

This story has been updated to correct the conversion of a half-foot depth of hail to 15.24 centimeters, not 1.83 meters.

McFetridge reported from Des Moines, Iowa, and Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Josh Funk in Omaha, Colleen Slevin in Denver and Juan Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged property, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A man sorts through the remains of a tornado-damaged home, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A man sorts through the remains of a tornado-damaged home, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of two tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of two tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine touch the ground in a field, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, near Prescott, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers stand near a home destroyed by a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers stand near a home destroyed by a tornado Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Workers search through the remains of tornado-damaged homes, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to the window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to the window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image taken from video provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to a window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image taken from video provided by JJ Unger, shows hail damage to a window of vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail surrounding a vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

This image provided by JJ Unger, shows hail surrounding a vehicle, Monday night, May 20, 2024, in Yuma, Colo. Residents in the small city in northeastern Colorado were cleaning up Tuesday after hail the size of baseballs and golf balls pounded the community, with heavy construction equipment and snow shovels being used to clear hail that had piled up knee-deep the night before. (JJ Unger via AP)

Workers clean out shattered glass at the Wells Fargo building as clean up from the previous week's storm continues in downtown Houston, Monday, May 20, 2024. The city closed off streets in a six-block exclusion zone downtown, from McKinney to Polk and from Smith to Travis to ease traffic around the area where broken glass and debris are prevalent. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Workers clean out shattered glass at the Wells Fargo building as clean up from the previous week's storm continues in downtown Houston, Monday, May 20, 2024. The city closed off streets in a six-block exclusion zone downtown, from McKinney to Polk and from Smith to Travis to ease traffic around the area where broken glass and debris are prevalent. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A police officer and an employee of nearby Dingman's Collision Center push a car that had been caught in flood waters in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

A police officer and an employee of nearby Dingman's Collision Center push a car that had been caught in flood waters in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

An early-morning storm knock tree branches onto the Pacific Street sign on 42nd Street in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

An early-morning storm knock tree branches onto the Pacific Street sign on 42nd Street in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Heavy machinery clears debris washed out by flooding from nearby construction sites in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Heavy machinery clears debris washed out by flooding from nearby construction sites in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Water pours out of a parking lot onto the ground in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Water pours out of a parking lot onto the ground in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Next Article

Tennessee election officials asking more than 14,000 voters to prove citizenship

2024-06-26 04:36 Last Updated At:04:40

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's top election office has sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation.

The letters, dated June 13, warned that it is illegal in Tennessee for noncitizens to vote and provided instructions on how to update voter information. The list was developed after comparing voter rolls with data from the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said Doug Kufner, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, in a statement Tuesday.

Kufner described the data from the state's homeland security department as a “snapshot” of a person's first interaction with that agency. Some may not have been U.S. citizens when they obtained a driver's license or ID card but have since been naturalized and “likely did not update their records," he said.

“Accurate voter rolls are a vital component to ensuring election integrity, and Tennessee law makes it clear that only eligible voters are allowed to participate in Tennessee elections,” Kufner said.

The letter does not, however, reveal what would happen to those who do not update their records — including whether people who fail to respond will be purged from the voter rolls. Kufner did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarity on if voters were at risk of being removed.

Instead, the letter contains warnings that illegal voting is a felony and carries penalties of up to two years in prison.

Voting rights advocates began raising the alarm after photos of the letter started circulating on social media. Democrats have long criticized the Secretary of State's office for its stances on voting issues in the Republican-dominant state.

“The fact legal citizens of the United States and residents of Tennessee are being accused of not being eligible to vote is an affront to democracy," said state Rep. Jason Powell, a Democrat from Nashville, in a statement. “These fine Tennesseans are being burdened with re-proving their own voter eligibility and threatened with imprisonment in a scare tactic reminiscent of Jim Crow laws.”

Powel and fellow Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons on Tuesday urged Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to investigate the issue.

Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat from Knoxville, said she was informed that one of the letter recipients included a “respected scientist in Oak Ridge” who had become a citizen and registered to vote in 2022.

“Maybe the state should verify citizenship with the federal government before sending threatening/intimidating letters to new citizens,” Johnson posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Other leaders encouraged those who received a letter to reach out to the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee for possible legal resources.

The effort bears some resemblance to the rollout of a sweeping Texas voting law passed in 2021, in which thousands of Texans — including some U.S. citizens — received letters saying they have been flagged as potential noncitizens who could be kicked off voting rolls.

Texas officials had just settled a lawsuit in 2019 after a prior search for ineligible voters flagged nearly 100,000 registered voters but wrongly captured naturalized citizens. A federal judge who halted the search the month after it began noted that only about 80 people to that point had been identified as potentially ineligible to vote.

FILE - A "vote here" sign is seen at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center, Aug. 1, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee's top election office sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

FILE - A "vote here" sign is seen at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center, Aug. 1, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee's top election office sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

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