Tennessee should give all 4.1 million registered voters the option to vote by mail during the Corona virus epidemic, a judge ruled Thursday.
Davidson County Prosecutor Ellen Hobbs-Lyle ruled that the state’s limitations on non-voting during the epidemic are “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The judge wrote that no eligible voter could cast a ballot to avoid contracting or passing COVID-19 “in the coming elections that are pending.”
The decision is enhanced by Republican Secretary of State Trey Hargett’s office, which fears that the virus will catch the virus in the poll or spread it unknowingly. The government has argued that such an expansion is unlikely for the 2020 elections, and there are other concerns, including a lack of money, staff and mail-in voting equipment.
Voters who do not wish to vote in person due to the COVID-19 virus situation are eligible to vote by mail or by such voters. Option to vote in person during the early voting or on election day. “
The judge wrote that the state has taken a “pessimistic” stance and relies on “strangely skewed” assumptions – including assuming that 100% of registered voters are willing to vote for a vote if allowed – against its own expert and industry standards. Meanwhile, Lyle wrote that the other 11 states have taken a “do-it-yourself approach” by relaxing voting by postal restrictions for the 2020 election, while two-thirds of states have allowed everyone to vote by mail.
“However, when ordinary industry-recognized assumptions are used, the evidence establishes that Tennessee has a temporarily expanded access to postal voting during epidemics, if the state provides leadership and encouragement as other states have done,” the judge wrote.
Hargett spokeswoman Julia Brooke said the fight is expected to lead to an appeal. The Attorney General’s office erupted in a court ruling that it failed to properly consider the “comprehensive security measures” contained in the state’s Kovit-19 election program.
“It is another court decision to change the law passed by people-elected officials by its own judgment, often ignoring the procedures for implementing such a decision and doing so in the midst of an epidemic and budget crisis,” Attorney General Herbert Slattery said in a statement.
Tennessee has more than a dozen varieties that qualify for a non-voting ballot, ranging from sick to 60 or older.
The Republican-led Legislature and GOP Gov. Bill Lee have rejected the idea of giving all voters a free vote, with lawmakers meeting more than once this week against Democratic expansion plans.
Instead, state election officials say 60 and more 1.4 million registered voters – 1 in every 3 registered voters – will cast their primary mail-in ballot on August 6. The state said Tennessee has historically seen less than 2.5% of the votes cast by mail.
The lawsuit has been filed in a number of states, including Texas, where a federal judge last month ordered an unrelated vote to be made available to any voter on the epidemic.
Tennessee’s voter turnout was 14% in the August 2016 primary, and then nearly 62% in the November 2016 general election, the presidential election. In the non-presidential year of 2018, about 30% of registered voters voted in the August primary and 54% in the November election.
The fallout was highlighted by President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, which was fiercely fought against the opening of all-out voting during the epidemic. Tennessee’s August election will be another test case as the states prepare for safety.
State court cases are being led by #UpTheVote901 and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.
“This is a huge victory for voting rights,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Program. “This ruling eliminates the need for an excuse for the 2020 elections, meaning that Tennesseans do not have to risk their health to vote.”
A group of civil rights advocates and the Campaign Law Center have filed a similar federal lawsuit under the law.