early voting

Plaintiffs in absentee voting case file contempt motion against state

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit over Tennessee’s absentee voting law have filed a contempt motion against the state for alleged violations of the judge’s order to immediately begin supplying mail-in ballots to anyone who asks for one.

Following last week’s ruling, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins sent an email to local officials telling them to “hold off” on sending absentee voting applications until the state could revise its forms or seek a stay in the judge’s order. The state then created a new category on its ballot application form that states voters are requesting to vote by mail because they have “determined it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in person due to the COVID-19 situation and therefore qualify as hospitalized, ill, or disabled and unable to appear at my polling place.”

The plaintiffs argue that the creation of that category wasn’t permitted by the court order, that it includes no definition of the “impossible or unreasonable” standard, and that there is no provision for someone to certify they can’t vote in person because they are caring for someone else.

“This unilateral disregard of the Court’s Order is designed to place increased scrutiny on voters who wish to do nothing more than to rely on this Court’s Order, lead to voter confusion and intimidation, and enable the state to segregate these voters’ absentee ballot requests and refrain from processing them,” according to the motion.

“The State has made calculated decisions to act contrary to the plain text of the Order and has instructed county election officials to do the same,” the plaintiffs said.

Goins told The Associated Press the state is complying and the plaintiffs aren’t citing the most up-to-date guidance.

“We are disappointed that plaintiffs have chosen to pursue a false narrative by leaving out updated guidance we distributed to counties on Friday that is being implemented,” Goins told the AP.

A hearing before Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has been scheduled for Thursday.

Tuesday is last day of early voting in Tennessee

Image: Secretary of State’s office.

Early voting for Tennessee’s presidential primary ends on Tuesday.

About 199,000 people voted early through Saturday, down from 208,000 through the same period in 2016. There had been 29,228 fewer Republican ballots casts through the first 10 days, compared with an increase of nearly 20,000  Democratic ones. GOP voters still accounted for 55% of the early votes cast, but that was down from 66% in the 2016 primary.

Democrats have seen their biggest gains in Shelby County (+4,116 votes), Hamilton (+2,023), Williamson (+1,961), Davidson (1,808), and Knox (+1,417) counties.

Republican turnout has been most depressed in Davidson (-4,087), Knox (-3,907), Rutherford (-2,359), Shelby (-2,202), Monroe (-1,681), and Sumner (-1,459) counties.

Wilson County has had the highest increase in turnout compared with 2016, with 2,560 more voters casting ballots (1,423 Republicans and 1,083 Democrats).  The next highest increases were in Shelby (+1,914), Washington (+1,766), Blount (+891), and Williamson (+783).

Tennessee’s Super Tuesday primary is on March 3.

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Early voting up slightly compared with 2016

About 3,000 more early ballots were cast through the first four days of early voting in Tennessee compared with the same period in the 2016 presidential primary.

Republican voting was down by 3,456 votes, while Democratic voting jumped by 6,465 ballots. It’s not an entirely unexpected result given President Donald Trump isn’t facing serious opposition in the GOP primary. And even then, Republicans have accounted for 60% of the early ballots cast so far.

The biggest increase in Democratic primary votes has so far occurred in Shelby (+3,248), Knox (+1,490), Hamilton (+661) and Rutherford (+404) counties.

Shelby County also saw that largest increase in Republican voters with 1,314, followed by Washington (+707), Blount (+412), Knox (+391), and Wilson (+315) counties.

Davidson County saw the biggest drop in both Democratic (-1,602) and Republican (-1,564) votes. The next biggest GOP drops were in Rutherford (-883), Monroe (-743), and Sumner (-433) counties. Democrats’ next biggest losses were votes in Monroe (-192), White (-133) , and Stewart (-108) counties.

(95-county breakdown after the jump)

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