Election officials instructed not to immediately comply with judge’s order on absentee ballots

A Nashville judge has ordered the state to start issuing absentee ballots to any registered voter who requests one, but State Election Coordinator Mark Goins is telling local officials not to immediately comply.

According to Goins:

Regarding the court’s decision, until we provide further instructions, do not send out any absentee applications. We may be sending a revised form. Do not update your own forms or language on your website yet. It is very important that we have uniform language. We are working on language for our website.  In the meantime, we expect a request for stay to put the ruling on hold as soon as possible […]

If a voter calls and asks for an application because of COVID-19, go ahead and take their information so you can send them a form later with the revised language if we update the form or a stay is not granted.

That appears to conflict with Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle’s order, which enjoined election officials from enforcing previous rules and mandated that they “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.”

The decision to hold off on putting the order into effect is reminiscent of Gov. Bill Lee’s announcement that he would continue to urge parents to apply for school voucher while the state appealed a ruling that found the law unconstitutional. The judge later denied a motion to lift her stay and berated the Education Department for failing to inform potential applicants about the legal challenge on its website.

Update from the AP’s Jonathan Mattise:

“The state’s order is clear,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed one of three similar lawsuits. “This kind of obstruction and defiance is intended to have one purpose — making it harder for people to vote.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Goins said state officials “have communicated to counties that they should maintain requests related to COVID-19 in a way that will allow them to be processed in compliance with the trial court order and any further orders in the case. We are also in the process of updating our website with further guidance in accordance with the order.”

In the email, Goins also told local officials not to update their own forms or put anything on their website about the expansion under the court ruling while his office works on language for its website.

Later on Friday, the Secretary of State’s Office posted the following notice on its early voting page:

[The headline has been updated to add the word ‘immediately’ to add context included in his statement.]

37 Responses to Election officials instructed not to immediately comply with judge’s order on absentee ballots

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    APPEAL DAMN IT!!!! Or is Chancellor Ellen Hobbs our new Dear Leader so we can tell the Governor and the General Assembly to go home and save a few bucks.

    • Yvonne says:

      I would agree with your statement Stuart, if you would substitute “State Election Coordinator Mark Goins” for “Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle”. He seems to be our new supreme commander.

      • John says:

        Goins will have to battle the AG for that title. When you have a weak, joke of a governor in a one-party state, people position for defacto leader. Remember Casada’s power trip? I wonder if the AG or election commissioner will ultimately be pulling Lee’s puppet strings.

    • RD says:

      If you want to vote in person Have at it but if we do not we should be allowed our right to vote vy Mail.

  • Tom Coe says:

    How could anyone oppose expanding the number of people who vote in our elections?

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      No Tom, it’s not “. . .the number of people. . . .” it’s the number of QUALIFIED people. Massively sending out ballots to names on a roster who may have moved, died, etc. to be completed by who knows who under what circumstances is an invitation to fraud. Shall we add even more doubt about the legitimacy of our elections to the political pathology that is slowly but surely sucking the life out of this country?

      • Jake Brown says:

        Stuart, the Chancellor’s Order specifically states that Tennessee is NOT to do massive mail-outs to everyone on the voting rolls. That’s the straw man the State has been peddling all along. Each voter will still have to apply for each absentee ballot. Voters can also choose to vote in person if they’re more concerned with the mythical threat of fraud than an actual deadly virus.

      • Stephen Austin says:

        No, Stuart, it’s not. It’s about the reasons for requesting the absentee ballots. It doesn’t impact any question of security regarding requests. It’s just meant to limit the number of requests. The pathology exists for those who will defend any effort to limit access to voting, especially for those who might not want to vote for Republicans.

      • Tom Coe says:

        Several states have run mail-in only ballots for several years without problems. So you are saying we are not competent to do this in Tennessee?

      • Perry Aubric says:

        Absolutely wrong, Stuart. Try getting your facts from a reliable source.

  • Teddy says:

    Hey Tom, maybe you are not familiar with some of the absentee ballot fraud issues in the past in Davidson County. Chancellor Lyle is a very competent judge but she is simply wrong on this issue.

    • Stephen Austin says:

      How does limiting the reasons for requesting absentee ballots impact fraud? It just means that people who’d like to vote but who are wary of exposing themselves to crowds are forced to either lie about their reason or are force to risk the crowds. If someone’s determined to commit absentee ballot fraud, they’ll do it, picking other reasons for the requests.

    • Joe says:

      Teddy, please list all these cases of absentee ballot fraud in Tennessee. Or are you confused by the republican criminal that was caught in NC?

  • Cannoneer2 says:

    Contempt of Court charges for Mr. Goins?

  • Steve says:

    The order does not contemplate “Massively sendnig out ballots to names on a roster who have may have moved, died, etc.” It is still up to a live TN resident voter to apply for an absentee ballot with name/addrsess/DOB/SSN/proper return address/etc, all under penalty of perjury. When they turn in their ballot, they will have to sign again under penalty of perjury, and their signature will be matched with the signature on file. It’s just treating people over 60 the same as those under 60, temporarily only, due to the pandemic.

  • Thomas says:

    There is no election fraud. Republicans want to deprive people of the right to vote. They do not care about the rules. They are cowards.

  • We do not know what the pandemic will look like in November. This ruling is a victory for the voters in Tennessee. Currently Tennessee is one of only 5 states that do not allow absentee voting for any reason. It is time for that to change.

    If cheating occurs, it is still a felony.

    • JAMES B. GARRETT says:

      Pamela, I believe you are absolutely incorrect when you say: “Currently Tennessee is one of only 5 states that do not allow absentee voting for any reason.” Tennessee has had absentee voting for the past twelve years that I have been an Officer of Elections. Currently, on the Davidson County Election Commission’s web page the are 12 categories of reasons a registered voter may request an absentee ballot. The very first one of these is if the voter is sixty (60) years of age or older. Over 25% of the registered voters in Davidson County would qualify for an absentee ballot for this very reason alone. They even have Permanent Absentee Voting provisions for those who are medically unable to vote in person.

  • Beatrice Shaw says:

    Tennessee has a serious issue with defying Judge rulings Thank goodness we have some judges with some backbone Especially in this epidemic we need more access to vote

  • Jane H says:

    Voter fraud is only a felony 1) If they get caught and 2) If the district attorney chooses to prosecute.

  • Norma Shirk says:

    When government officials deliberately disobey court orders, we no longer have a democracy; we have a banana republic. By the way, the notion that mail-in ballots will be sent to the wrong address or to someone not registered to vote is idiotic. The voter has to request in writing to be sent a mail-in ballot at which point even a dingaling like Goins can verify the name and address with the voter roll to ensure that only properly registered voters get a mail-in ballot. This is just another smoke screen by a political party that knows it is on the wrong side of history and is looking for any excuse to prevent voters from booting them out of office. Banana republic.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      You bet Norma, Republicans are just cowering in fear that the Democrats are going to sweep into power here in Tennessee thanks to voting by mail. Please just be sure that you and your friends spend lots and lots of money to bring this about where it will do no harm to this country rather than elsewhere where you may do real damage.

      As for voting by mail, I can see why leftists and their newly energized mobs of thugs are so anxious to bring this about insofar as mail-in-ballots destroy the secret ballot so they can lead to intimidation and improper pressuring of voters where they live. This is especially true in urban ghettos where perhaps the majority of voters would like to engage in some “. . .booting them out of office. . .” of leftist Democratic officeholders who have been so pathetically incapable of discharging the most basic function of government, keeping the peace. Of course, such ballots are also subject to being stolen or altered because they are outside of the supervision and overview of election officials.

      Elections were held last April in Wisconsin where about 300,000 voters cast ballots in person where steps were taken to administer the voting while complying with the medical guidelines so as a result no spike in Chinese flu cases were detected. Those most at risk for serious illness from the flu, those over 60 can already get absentee ballots in Tennessee. No change in our rules are needed.

  • WhitesCreek says:

    Golly, the way Republicans complain and moan when a Judge rules against them you would think they believe they can’t win a fair election. Trump votes by mail. The military votes by mail. I will vote by mail.

  • Beatrice Shaw says:

    Agreed Fearmongering won’t help. Republicans have created disasters with race issues, voting issues, school issues and medicaid. Insane this country can’t get responsible leaders

  • Henry Walker says:

    Teddy: I worry about voter fraud, too, and recall (and have read about) the absentee ballot and other voting problems in Davidson County’s history. But you should read the opinion. The state’s own expert testified that fraud was not an issue in the circumstances of this case. The Judge could hardly have ruled otherwise based on what happened in Davidson County fifty years ago.

  • David Collins says:

    Wow! There is a lot of misinformation in today’s blog. I am not sure the good Judge actually has the authority to order applications for absentee ballots to be sent to every registered voter. As part of her order provides, the election commission can encourage all registered voters to vote during the early voting period. The will still come into contact with more people than they would marking their absentee ballot at home, but, social distancing rules and masks can minimize any exposure. The state election coordinator is by law the chief election law officer of the State and is charged with assuring that all election procedures are equal and uniform across this state (as mandated in the State Constitution) so he or she would be the logical choice to direct the proper conduct of the election.
    As to the question of voter fraud. Voter fraud IS a felony regardless of whether the perpetrator is caught and/or later prosecuted. You wouldn’t say murder is a felony only if the person is caught and later prosecuted so don’t be silly and say it’s different standard for voter fraud. Secondly, voting absentee DOES NOT disturb the sanctity of the secret ballot. Election officials DO NOT know how a person voted. If you vote absentee, you will notice that the flap on the envelope in which you place your marked ballot is where you sign your name. Once the signature comparison is made and the election commission is convinced you are in fact the voter you claim to be, that flap is removed and the envelope is tossed into a box with all the others and is mixed up to where no one can tell how a particular person voted. Assuming the election commission has performed its duty to mail out and verify addresses and removed dead voters from the rolls (they are mailed monthly a list of all names that appeared on all death certificates for the past 30 days), the fears stated above in Mr. Anderson’s response should be allayed.
    We have a good and sound law and procedure for administering absentee voting and good and honest people administering those laws. Absentee voting should not be feared. At last count, I think that there are as many as six states that have abandoned polling places altogether and conduct their elections entirely by mail. It is cheaper and more convenient to do so. There are plenty of real things to worry about but absentee voting is not one of them.

  • Henry Walker says:

    David, a former State Coordinator of Elections in Tennessee, knows of what he speaks concerning the precautions against fraud in absentee voting. That’s why the state’s own expert testified that fraud was not an issue in this case. As for David’s comments on the limits of the judge’s authority, David (who is a good lawyer) should study the opinion. She ordered only a temporary expansion of the category of people who may request absentee ballots. That’s all.

  • Mike kernell says:

    Having diabetes is not a voting handicap normally , but it is a stay at home disability during a pandemic.
    Same is true for someone who is 35 and taking care of a 55 year old parent in chemotherapy.
    Neither should have to stay home with no options to vote in a pandemic.
    This is the spirit of the law.

    PS. The failure of the legislature to change the law quickly during a pandemic, does not negate the previous law or the the spirit of the law.
    PSS. While the government is holding meetings over Zoom, they still want the sick and vulnerable to zoom in to vote .

  • http://truethevote.activehosted.com/index.php?action=social&chash=6c8349cc7260ae62e3b1396831a8398f.75&s=d7abe341215bd3036a0ce2319e66e572

    #1 – Election laws are the purview of the legislature, not the judiciary. Judges cannot make law.
    #2 – Mail-in and absentee voting is not only subject to fraud, it is subject to all kinds of other issues and does not guarantee election integrity. See link above.

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