NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee must give all of its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, a judge ruled Thursday.
Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”
The decision upends a determination by Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls wouldn’t qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion wouldn’t be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns.
The ruling is likely to be appealed.
The decision requires the state to “prominently post on their websites and disseminate to County Election Officials that voters who do not wish to vote in-person due to the COVID-19 virus situation are eligible to request an absentee ballot by mail or that such voters still have the option to vote in-person during Early voting or on Election Day.”