Tre Hargett

Tennessee sets new voter turnout record

A record number of Tennessee voters cast ballots in this year’s general election.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A record-breaking 3,045,401 Tennesseans, or over 68 percent of active and inactive registered voters, cast ballots in-person during early voting and on Election Day or absentee by-mail in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Voter turnout and participation handily beat the previous record set during the 2008 presidential election when 2,618,238 cast their ballots.

“For months, our office has worked with election commissions and health officials across the state to ensure that in-person voting was clean, safe and secure,” said Secretary Hargett. “Traditionally, Tennesseans prefer to vote in-person. We’ve said it for months, and yet again, voters showed their confidence in the safety precautions in place and their preference to cast a ballot in-person by showing up in record numbers at the polls.”

Counties must submit certified election results to the Division of Elections by Monday, Nov. 23.

Unofficial election results are available on our website at elections.tn.gov.

“We would not have seen the record numbers of voters have such a smooth voting experience during a pandemic without the months and countless hours of planning by Tennessee’s 95 election commissions, administrators, and staff,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “Thanks to the roughly 17,000 poll officials who stepped up to serve their communities and carry out all the planning to provide Tennesseans with a safe and secure in-person voting experience.”

Tennessee also broke the early and absentee by-mail turnout record during the two-week early voting period in this election. A comprehensive report of in-person and absentee by-mail turnout during early voting by county with comparisons to 2016 and 2012 is available on GoVoteTN.com.

Early voting passes 1M mark in Tennessee

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

More than 1 million Tennesseans have cast ballots through the first six days of early early voting. Those figures are up 47% compared with the same period in 2016.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Through the sixth day of early voting in Tennessee, 1,085,384 voters have cast their ballot for the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“The massive turnout shows Tennesseans’ confidence in the safety precautions taken by county election commissions,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “As I visit early voting sites across the state, I continue to see elections officials doing a great job helping voters cast a ballot in a smooth and efficient process.”
Statewide, there is nearly a 47 percent increase of in-person and absentee by-mail voters compared to 2016, with each county reporting higher numbers than ever before.
“At this rate, we are on pace to break the state’s previous early voting turnout record, set during the last presidential election,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins.
Early voting for the State and Federal General election runs Monday to Saturday until Thursday, Oct. 29. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Tennessee voters can find their early voting and Election Day hours, polling locations and more with the GoVoteTN app or online at GoVoteTN.com. The GoVoteTN app is free to download in the App Store or Google Play.
While visiting the polls, Tennesseans are encouraged to wear a face covering and maintaining a six-foot distance from poll officials and other voters.
Voters planning to vote early or on Election Day will need to bring valid photo identification to the polls. A Tennessee driver license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee state government or the federal government are acceptable even if they are expired. College student IDs are not acceptable. More information about what types of ID are acceptable can be found on sos.tn.gov or by calling toll free 1-877-850-4959.
Tennessee state law requires polling locations and the area within a 100-foot boundary surrounding each entrance to remain campaign-free zones. This includes the display or distribution of campaign materials and the solicitation of votes for or against any person, party or question on the ballot in these areas. Voters wearing campaign-related clothing or paraphernalia will not be allowed within the 100-foot boundary.
For early voting turnout updates, follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.
For more information about early voting in Tennessee, go to GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

Early voting turnout well ahead of 2016 so far

Here is a look at turnout in early voting in Tennessee by our favorite political mapmaker Don Johnson.

Shelby County has seen one of the biggest increases compared with four years ago, while the suburban counties around Nashville have been among those with the largest percentage of their registered voters casting their ballots early.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office says 249,302 more voters have cast early ballots so far than in 2016, a 52% increase.

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.

Hargett says it will be ‘surprise’ if full results available by end of Election Day

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)

Secretary of State Tre Hargett says it will be a surprise if full results are available by the end of Election Day, according to reporter Hank Hayes of the Kingsport Times-News.

“We’re going to see a spike in absentee ballots. I don’t know how heavy that will be,” Hargett said. “I hope I’m pleasantly surprised like I was in August, when 95 counties had their election results done by midnight.”

The Secretary of State’s office has taken to the courts to try to fend off efforts to expand access to absentee voting during the pandemic.

Early voting starts on Oct. 14 and runs through Oct. 29. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. Mail-in ballots must be received via the Postal Service by Election Day in order to be counted.

Hayes pressed Hargett on his plans after the election.

“We’re trying to run an election 50 days from now,” Hargett said. “I am going to ask the legislature to re-elect me for another four-year term in January. I’ve got a lot of work to do. We still see a lot of areas where we think we can do better in. That’s what I’m focused on.”

A joint convention of the General Assembly will vote on the next four-year term for the Secretary of State in January. Hargett, a former state lawmaker, was first elected to the job in 2009. He got into some hot water in 2014 after a staffer reserved a website for a potential gubernatorial bid.

Hargett acknowledged to WTVF-TV at the time it might not have looked good, but said the site had been reserved to protect him from someone else grabbing it. He later announced he wouldn’t run for governor.

Judge orders state to include specific guidance on absentee ballot eligibility due to COVID-19

A judge has ordered Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office to include wording in absentee ballot application forms to make clear that people at greater risk from contracting COVID-19 are eligible to vote by mail.

Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle’s ruling Tuesday came after the state Supreme Court agreed to vacate the injunction she had imposed earlier when the state took what the chancellor called the “extraordinary step of a last-minute concession during oral arguments” that people with a special vulnerability to COVID-19 (or those who care for people who do) had a valid reason to cast absentee ballots. Had the state taken this position earlier, Lyle said, the case would have been settled long before it reached the Supreme Court.

The high court’s ruling had instructed Hargett’s office to “ensure that appropriate guidance is provided to Tennessee registered voters” about the state’s new stance. While Hargett issued a press release that included reference to people with a special vulnerability to COVID-19 being able to vote by mail, the new application form included no such information.

As such, Lyle ruled the application forms should now include the following excuses for people seeking to vote by mail:

I am hospitalized, ill or physically disabled and unable to appear at my polling place to vote (this includes persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it).

I am a caretaker of a hospitalized, ill or physically disabled person (this includes caretakers for persons who have underlying medical or health conditions which in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it).

Lyle also deemed that other materials issued by the state on the subject of absentee balloting — such as language highlighted at the bottom of the form offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for voter — to be “confusing and misleading.” But the chancellor said those details fell outside of her purview.

Hargett’s office was critical of the decision.

“It is ironic to us that the same Chancellor who chastised us for changing the form is now upset because we did not change the form,” Hargett spokeswoman Julia Bruck said in an emailed statement. “The Chancellor is legislating from the bench.”

Hedy Weinberg, the exeutive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, lauded the decision:

The court’s ruling today will ensure that people with special vulnerability to COVID-19 and their caretakers know exactly how to request mail-in ballots. The state’s delay in making this information clear is yet another example of voter suppression in Tennessee. Our state should be working to make it as easy as possible for people to vote, not creating obstacles at every turn and requiring a court order to fix them. We applaud the court for compelling the state to make Tennesseans’ voting rights clear and to do so quickly.

Read the ruling here.

Absentee voting: CDC’s high-risk conditions for COVID-19 include obesity, smoking, blood pressure

As part of the state’s concessions on absentee balloting to get the Tennessee Supreme Court to throw out an court order allowing anyone fearful of contracting COVID-19 to vote by mail, officials agreed that anyone with a “special vulnerability” to the virus would be allowed to cast an absentee ballot.

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)

According to guidance released by Secretary of State Tre Hargett on Wednesday, people with an “underlying illness, physical disability, or other health condition and who cannot appear at the polling place on Election Day” can obtain an absentee ballot. That also goes for people who care for someone who does.

The press release urges voters to “consult trusted guidance from medical experts and use common sense in determining whether they have a special vulnerability.” It goes on to suggest looking up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information.

According to the CDC website linked by Hargett’s office, the list of people with increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19 includes:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

The CDC says other conditions that might leave people at an increased risk are:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Smoking
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

The release from the Secretary of State’s office follows.

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Groups seek to block new Tennessee voter registration law

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), right, gestures at Rep. Cameron Sezton (R-Crossville) in Nashville on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Several groups are seeking to block a new Tennessee law placing restrictions on signing up voters from going into effect, the AP’s Jonathan Mattise reports.

The law, which is presumed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, imposes penalties — both fines and misdemeanor charges — on groups  submitting too many incomplete registrations. The law  is scheduled to take effect in October

The lawsuit was filed in May on behalf of the NCAAP, The Equity Alliance, The Andrew Goodman Foundation and Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities. They argue that while the law purportedly only targets paid groups, it’s an unclear distinctions because many use grant money and pay stipends to workers signing up voters.

“Not only does this law create hurdles that prevent us from helping our community register to vote, it intimidates our members so that they do not want to become officers of the TN NAACP or the local units because they fear criminal penalties and civil fines if they are required to carry out a civic engagement plan that includes voter registration, which they all do,”  Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, president of the  Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, wrote in a legal filing.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett has defended the law adding penalties as bolstering election security, noting that up to 10,000 incomplete registration collected by the Tennessee Black Voter Project were submitted in the Memphis area on the last day to submit filings. His office declined to discuss pending litigation.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) and Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson).

 

 

Hargett announces domestic violence safety program

Secreatary of State Tre Hargett has announced that Tennessee will join more than 35 other states in keeping the addresses of victims of domestic violence confidential.

Participants will get a government-managed substitute address that will forward correspondence to them.

Here’s the full release from Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett today was joined by members of the General Assembly, advocates for domestic violence victims and other stakeholders to announce the introduction of the Tennessee Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program. Tennessee now joins the more than 35 other states offering similar domestic violence safety programs.

Safe at Home launches March 1 and aims to protect Tennessee victims of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, stalking and other related crimes from their abusers by keeping their address concealed from public records. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), 18 of the 84 domestic violence-related murder victims in Tennessee in 2017 were repeat victims or had reported domestic abuse prior to their deaths.

“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the problem of domestic violence in our state and help protect those Tennesseans who have been victimized from becoming victims again,” Hargett said. “Safe at Home provides victims and their families with a tool to help heal from their abuse, begin new lives and finally feel a sense of security in their communities.”

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First lady Crissy Haslam awarded medallion from national secretaries of state

First lady Crissy Haslam attends a portrait unveiling for Gov. Bill Haslam on Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett on Monday presented First Lady Crissy Haslam with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Award for her work to support the Tennessee State Library and Archives and programs to increase early childhood literacy.

“Crissy Haslam has dedicated her time as Tennessee’s first lady to promoting the love of reading to children and families across the state,” Hargett said. “By creating and maintaining a variety of programs, she has continued to engage parents and children with high quality family reading selections, elevate the love of reading, and connect readers with their public libraries.”
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