Sunday, August 2, 2020

Vote by Mail Arguments heard by Tennessee Supreme Court

I saw nothing in our newspapers about the State's appeal of a lower court ruling that would force the State to allow vote-by-mail due to the pandemic. I therefore call your attention to The Nashville Tennessean, which covered the arguments made last week:  

Absentee Ballot Battle 

In short, the state shifted its argument to allow those with pre-existing conditions, or those who care for people with pre-existing conditions, to vote by mail this year. Previously, in lower courts, its arguments ignored the pandemic altogether, and no allowance was made for voting by mail due to the pandemic. The State, in its Supreme Court argument, did not specify any pre-existing conditions that would qualify, and it appears the honor system would be at play if the Court adopts the State's current argument. One would just sign that, under the threat of perjury, there is a pre-existing condition which prevents a safe in-person vote. 

The plaintiffs argue that limiting voting access goes against the rights of voters as guaranteed by the state and U.S. Constitution.Tennessee is one of the few states that requires a voter to have a specific reason to be able to vote absentee.

Currently, the list of reasons for voting absentee are on the application--and on the Shelby County Election Commission website. At this point, the language re: the pandemic reads as follows: 

  • You are hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and cannot vote in person and/or I have determined that it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in-person due to the COVID-19 situation.
  • You are a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled, and/or I have determinted that it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in person due to the COVID-19 situation.

Presumably, if the Supreme Court accepts the State's current argument, there will be the requirement of having a pre-existing condition added to the above language.    

Blue and Black Ink 

Just a bit of a heads up if you are voting absentee-- I was a bit confused by the instructions sent with my absentee ballot. One piece of paper said to use a blue or black ink pen, not a pencil or red ink. The ballot itself said only black ink is allowed. To be on the safe side, I used the more restrictive instruction-black ink.

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