elections

New TNJ edition alert: The Registry’s revenge, criminal justice developments, and tie breakers

The Registry of Election Finance meets in Nashville on Sept. 8, 2022. From left are members Tom Morton, Tom Lawless, and Hank Fincher. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Registry to audit candidate who nearly beat Senate GOP leader; hardball tactics contrast with earlier efforts to brush Tillis complaints under rug.

— Criminal justice: Backers say Memphis murder case justifies ‘truth in sentencing’ law.

— Tied up in knots: Sumner, Cocke commissions take contrasting steps to break election deadlock.

Also: A Democrat is elected chair of the Republican Knox County Commission, a big Tennessee beer distributor is gobbled up by a huge national firm, the state treasurer backs away from cryptocurrency, and a happy hour curfew.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Democratic state House candidate arrested for cussing cops in Maury County

David Carson, a Democratic candidate for state House District 71, was arrested for disorderly conduct four days before the primary for berating police officers, the Daily Herald of Columbia reports. Carson was unopposed for the nomination and faces Republican Kip Capley in the election to succeed retiring Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro).

Carson was taken into custody after a woman complained to police after he and two other men had come to her property to complain that electrical work done by her husband was not to his liking. Her husband was not home, she said.

When she asked Carson to leave, she said he moved to the edge of the property and parked on an easement road. When Mount Pleasant officers arrived and requested his ID, they said Carson became “loud and verbally abusive toward officers.” According to the report, Carson was told he would be arrested if he did not calm down and stop being loud but that he “kept interrupting by yelling and cursing officers” until he was taken into custody.

Carson told the paper he didn’t think he was on private property and that he had gone to the residence to pick up a trailer. He said he expects the charges to be dropped at a court hearing scheduled for Sept. 7.

Registration deadline for primary election is July 5

Campaign signs outside an early voting location in Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The deadline to register for the August primary elections is July 5.

Here’s the release from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans who want to cast a ballot in the Aug. 4 State and Federal Primary & State and County General Election must register or update their voter registration before the voter registration deadline on Tuesday, July 5.

“Going into this 4th of July holiday, I can’t think of a more patriotic thing to do than to register to vote,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “With our convenient online voter registration system, it’s never been easier or safer for Tennesseans to register to vote or update their registration.”

Registering to vote, updating your address or checking your registration status is fast, easy and secure with the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. Any U.S. citizen with a driver’s license or a photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security can register online in minutes from any computer or mobile device at GoVoteTN.gov.

Voters can also download a paper voter registration application at GoVoteTN.gov. Completed paper voter registration applications must be mailed to your local county election commission office or submitted in person. Mailed voter registrations must be postmarked by July 5.

Election Day registration is not available in Tennessee.

Early voting for the Aug. 4 election starts Friday, July 15, and runs Monday to Saturday until Saturday, July 30. The deadline to request an absentee by-mail ballot is Thursday, July 28. However, eligible voters who will be voting absentee by-mail should request the ballot now.

For up-to-date, accurate information about the Aug. 4 election, follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.

For more information about registering to vote, voter eligibility and other Tennessee election details, visit GoVoteTN.gov or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

Rep. Eddie Mannis is latest to retire from House

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Eddie Mannis is the latest Tennessee lawmaker to announce he won’t run again. The Knoxville businessman is the 10th Republican to decide against seeking re-election to the House this fall (see the full list here.)

Here’s the full announcement from Mannis:

“Yesterday, I informed my fellow Representatives of my intention to not seek reelection as Representative of District 18 in the State of Tennessee General Assembly.

As my guiding principle has always, and will always be, people before politics and partisanship, I wanted to publicly share the reasons behind my decision.

The recent passing of my dad has truly forced me to do a lot of soul searching. I have heard his final words, “Follow your heart,” over and over in my head. After weeks and weeks of prayer and conversations with my family and friends, I decided not to seek reelection when the 112th adjourns. It has been a very difficult decision, but I must truly follow my heart.

Serving in the Tennessee General Assembly has been one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Making decisions that impact people’s lives and livelihoods is a huge responsibility. I will always be grateful to the people of the State of Tennessee, Knox County, and District 18 for allowing me this opportunity.

It has also been an indescribable honor and privilege to serve with my fellow Representatives. While we haven’t always agreed on issues and I will no longer be serving alongside them, I will continue to support them in their efforts of working towards what is right and just, and what hopefully will make us all better Tennesseans.

I look forward to returning to my business ventures, working alongside my team who have made many sacrifices over the past several years. They have afforded me the opportunity to take on two very

hard-fought campaigns and serve the people of Tennessee for the past two years. I am also excited to restart HonorAir-Knoxville and get back to serving East Tennessee Veterans after a two-and-a-half-year break during the pandemic. Continuing to serve my community will remain one of the most important aspects of my life.

Although this is a bittersweet time for me, I leave hoping that it’s obvious that I’ve tried to make the best decisions possible based on my conscience and my desire to try and do what’s right. I am grateful. Thank you

Bell won’t seek re-election to Tenn. Senate

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) attends a redistricting hearing on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) isn’t seeking re-election next year.

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) announced today that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2022. Bell was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2006 before moving to the State Senate in 2010 where he represents Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties in Senate District 9.

“It has been the highest honor of my life to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly,” said Sen. Bell. “I am incredibly thankful for the continued support, friendship and kindness of my constituents who have entrusted me to represent them for the past 15 years. Just as I knew it was time for me to run for office in 2006, I feel it is now time to move to the next chapter of my life and pass the leadership mantle for this district to a new state senator.”

Bell said he is making the announcement early enough to provide prospective candidates plenty of time to come forward and meet with the people of the district.

“I love representing the people of this district,” added Bell who regularly attends community and school functions in the district. “It has truly been a joy to get to know members of our civic, business, school, volunteer firefighters, sportsmen, veteran groups, and other community organizations. Their input has been a tremendous asset to me while serving in the General Assembly and I will miss that constant contact very much. I also couldn’t have done this job without the encouragement of my wife and children and am very appreciative of their support.”

“This is a tremendous loss for the Senate and the State,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally. “Mike has brought a true working-class perspective to the Senate that has been simply invaluable. An authentic citizen legislator, Mike has served with distinction as chairman of both the Judiciary and Government Operations committees while at the same time owning and operating his own small business. A consistent conservative and a true friend, Mike Bell has championed the cause of Life and the Second Amendment with impassioned advocacy. His commitment to those two issues, in particular, has resulted in successful legislative victories on multiple occasions. I have always considered him a very close friend and hope to continue to call on him for advice and counsel. I congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement from the legislature and wish him the best of luck on what comes next.”

Bell has served in several leadership positions during his legislative tenure. In addition to chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the Senate Government Operations Committee from 2012 to 2018 where he pushed for greater accountability of Tennessee’s boards and commissions to make them more effective and customer-friendly. In the House of Representatives, he chaired the Children and Family Subcommittee and was Freshman Leader in the Republican Caucus. 

In addition, he currently serves as Chairman of the General Assembly’s Sportmen’s Caucus and is a member of the Executive Council for the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), receiving several awards on behalf of his efforts to preserve hunting and fishing. He serves as Chairman of Tennessee’s Asian Carp Advisory Commission to study and provide advice regarding the best methods for mitigating the invasion of Asian carp into the state’s lakes and river systems.

During his legislative tenure, Bell has been a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights, including sponsoring the law establishing the right to carry a firearm without a permit. Other key laws sponsored by Bell include:

  • Legislation revamping the state’s Textbook Commission to provide for greater transparency and more public input in the textbook selection process;
  • Several bills removing unfair restrictions concerning the eligibility of home school students for Tennessee’s lottery scholarships;
  • Legislation to protect Tennesseans’ access to healthcare through telehealth services;
  • The Broadband Accessibility Act to improve access to broadband through investment, deregulation and education, spurring development in rural areas to open them up to job growth;
  • Legislation creating volunteer firefighter grants for equipment and the new law to provide them with an annual $600 payment upon completion of training;
  • Numerous laws strengthening penalties for human trafficking and providing support for victims;
  • Legislation to make the Board of Judicial Conduct more responsive to the public; and
  • Several laws protecting unborn children, including legislation excluding facilities in Tennessee that perform abortion from receiving Tennessee taxpayer money.

He was also was a strong legislative supporter for the Bradley County Tennessee Veterans Home. 

Bell will continue to serve until a new state senator is elected in the regular general election on November 8, 2022.

AP: State election coordinator’s memo served as basis for judge ouster resolution

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Election Coordinator Mark Goins helped lay the groundwork for a controversial resolution to oust a respected Nashville judge for a ruling to expand access to absentee voting during the pandemic, according to public records obtained by the AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise.

Goins sent a five-page memo outlining his complaints about Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle to Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), the sponsor of the resolution that would gain as many as 67 cosponsors before it was killed in a House subcommittee last week. Goins said he wrote the memo at Rudd’s request about a month before the resolution was filed.

According to emails obtained by the AP, Rudd’s assistant sent a Jan. 20 email saying the lawmaker was “in need of verbiage and information for this resolution.” According to Goins’ memo:

“Chancellor Lyle issued numerous orders and expressed her opinion ranging from ordering ministerial checklists, destroying accurate election documents, using her specific language for instructions and websites, to challenging statutory language regarding voting fraud. The practical effect was she became the de facto Coordinator of Elections when it came to voting by-mail.”

Goins also took issue with Lyle’s “tone” during proceedings.

Lyle in June told Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office “shame on you” for taking matters into its own hands by modifying her absentee balloting order without first seeking approval from the court. Goins the previous week had told county election commissions to “hold off” on following Lyle’s order while his office revised application forms and sought a stay.

The state’s creation of a new category for voters unwilling to risk their health was criticized as sowing uncertainty about whether ballots would be counted if the decision is later overturned. While Lyle declined plaintiffs’ motion to impose sanctions for the unauthorized changes, she ordered the state to revise its forms to include concerns over COVID-19 among the existing qualifications for people too ill to vote in person. If her ruling isn’t followed, she warned, criminal contempt proceedings could follow.

“Chancellor publicly chastised defendants saying, ‘Shame on You’ and threatened criminal contempt,” Goins wrote. “However, Chancellor Lyle did not ‘shame’ or ‘threaten to hold in contempt’ the multiple plaintiffs who voted in-person even though they signed a verified complaint under oath in her court saying they did not want to risk their health by voting in-person and needed to vote by mail.”

Goins and Hargett promoted news coverage of the plaintiffs’ decisions to vote in person while the lawsuit was going on.

Read the full AP story here.

Slatery joins states’ legal effort to overturn presidential election

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery, right, speaks with Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) on the House floor in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is joining an amicus brief supporting a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the result of the presidential election to sway it in President Donald Trump’s favor.

“The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office has consistently taken the position that only a State’s legislature has the authority to make and change election laws,” Slatery said in a statement. “This Office pressed that argument in cases defending Tennessee’s election laws against pandemic-related challenges and in amicus briefs in cases involving similar challenges in other courts. This is not something new.”

Slatery’s office this year fought efforts to allow anyone afraid of contracting COVID-19 to cast absentee ballots. The state lost at the chancery court level, allowing the looser restrictions on mail-in balloting to take effect for the primary. The state Supreme Court later overturned the the decision, but only after the AG’s office reversed course to say anyone with an underlying health condition making them more susceptible to COVID-19 (or anyone living with someone who did) could cast absentee ballots.

A Trump-appointed federal judge also ruled Tennessee couldn’t enforce its rules this year requiring first-time voters who registered online to cast their ballots in person.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) called Slatery’s move a “low point in the history of the office of the Tennessee Attorney General. “

“Here’s the context: The Attorney General in Texas is under FBI investigation and widely assumed to be fishing for a pardon” Yarbro said on Twitter. “Now the Tennessee Attorney General is spending Tennessee resources to help?”

7 Republicans decline to sign state House letter demanding litigation over presidential election

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The House Republican Caucus is getting in on the letter-writing campaign to support President Donald Trump’s lawsuits over having the outcome of the presidential election called against him.

“When there are alleged software glitches, lost or destroyed ballots, and questionable practices implemented in some areas of the country, litigation must have a day in court to decide the outcome of this election process,” according to the letter signed by 66 of 73 House members.

Just as with an earlier letter written by state Senate Republicans, there were holdouts. Seven members of the lower chamber declined to affix their signatures to the communique: Reps. Michael Curcio of Dickson, Johnny Garrett of Goodlettsville, Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain, Justin Lafferty of Knoxville, Eddie Mannis of Knoxville, Bob Ramsey of Maryville, and Sam Whitson of Franklin.

Here’s the letter:

To all Tennesseans,

The Tennessee House Republican Caucus unequivocally and staunchly stands with President of the United States Donald J. Trump in demanding that all legal ballots, and only legal ballots, be counted in the 2020 presidential election.

Voting is one of the most fundamental pieces of our American republic. One person equals one vote in a system that grants justice and equality for all in deciding our government. In an election where there are alleged examples of voter fraud and malpractice, Tennessee Republicans stand with the rule of law.

We shall not accept the idea that the national media or the political elite have the official say on the winner of any election, let alone the presidency. It is up to the official systems put in place by the constitution and by the people. When there are alleged software glitches, lost or destroyed ballots, and questionable practices implemented in some areas of the country, litigation must have a day in court to decide the outcome of this election process.

We uphold the idea of protecting the rights of all Americans, liberal or conservative, to have their voices heard. After all legal ballots are counted and any illegal ballots are removed, we support confirming the victor. A peaceful transition to the next term, whether it be the incumbent or the challenger, is paramount to our system of government.

We stand with all Tennesseans in defending the integrity of elections. We are asking for the election process to have the ability to finish before prematurely declaring a winner.

It matters who governs,

/signed/
Speaker Cameron Sexton
Chairman Jeremy Faison
Leader William Lamberth
Rebecca Alexander
Charlie Baum
Clark Boyd
Rush Bricken
David Byrd
Kent Calfee
Scotty Campbell
Dale Carr
Michele Carringer
Mike Carter
Glen Casada
Scott Cepicky
Mark Cochran
John Crawford
Tandy Darby
Clay Doggett
Rick Eldridge
Andrew Farmer
Ron Gant
John Gillespie
Bruce Griffey
Rusty Grills
Curtis Halford
Mark Hall
Kirk Haston
David Hawk
Esther Helton
Gary Hicks
Tim Hicks
John Holsclaw
Dan Howell
Bud Hulsey
Chris Hurt
Curtis Johnson
Kelly Keisling
Sabi Kumar
Tom Leatherwood
Mary Littleton
Susan Lynn
Pat Marsh
Debra Moody
Jerome Moon
Brandon Ogles
Dennis Powers
John Ragan
Jay Reedy
Tim Rudd
Iris Rudder
Lowell Russell
Jerry Sexton
Paul Sherrell
Robin Smith
Mike Sparks
Bryan Terry
Chris Todd
Ron Travis
Kevin Vaughan
Todd Warner
Terri Lynn Weaver
Mark White
Ryan Williams
Dave Wright
Jason Zachary
 

Poll: Trump holds 56% to 42% advantage over Biden in Tennessee

Campaign signs outside an early voting location in Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican President Donald Trump leads Democrat Joe Biden by 14 percentage points, according to a new SurveyMonkey-Tableau 2020 poll.

The online poll of 4,642 likely voters had Trump with 56% and Biden with 42%. Trump won Tennessee 61% to 35% against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Among men, 65% preferred Trump, while 34% backed Biden. Women were split 49% to 49% between the two candidates.

Biden was ahead in Tennessee among younger voters (65% of those 24 or younger and 55% of those between 25 and 34), but Trump held a wide advatage among older voters (62% of those between 45 and 64).

Trump led by a margin of 70% to 29% in rural areas, though that advantage dropped to 53% to 45% in the suburbs. Biden led 60% to 37% in urban areas.

The poll is co-sponsored by the political news site Axios. But polling site FiveThirtyEight.com doesn’t hold the survey in particularly high regard, giving it a D-minus rating.

One week left to register for November election

The deadline to register for the Nov. 3 election is one week away. Here’s a release from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office laying out the particulars:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans who want to vote in the Nov. 3 State and Federal General Election only have one week until the voter registration deadline on Monday, Oct. 5.

“To make your voice heard at the polls on Election Day, you need to register to vote,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “With the convenience of our online voter registration system, it’s never been easier or safer for Tennesseans to register to vote or update their registration.”

Registering to vote, updating your address or checking your registration status is fast, easy and secure with the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system. Any U.S. citizen with a driver’s license or a photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security can register online from any computer or mobile device at GoVoteTN.com.

Voters can also download a paper voter registration application at GoVoteTN.com.

Completed paper voter registration applications must be submitted or postmarked to your local county election commission office by Oct. 5. 

Election Day registration is not available. 

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election starts Wednesday, Oct. 14, and runs Monday to Saturday until Thursday, Oct. 29.

Voters can find early voting and Election Day polling locations, view and mark sample ballots and much more at GoVoteTN.com or on the free GoVoteTN app available in the App Store and Google Play.

For the latest information on the Nov. 3 election, follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate. For more information about registering to vote, voter eligibility, photo IDs, and other Election Day details visit GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.