voting

Hargett signs letter opposing federal voting bill

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)

Tennessee’s Tre Hargett has signed onto a letter from from Republican secretaries of state opposing legislation in congress aiming to set national voting guidelines. The letter is written by John Merrill of Alabama and signed by 15 other top state election officials.

The letter comes as Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery has also joined Republican colleagues from other states in opposing the legislation.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and House Minority Leader McCarthy:

We are writing you today to urge you to reject the “For the People Act” otherwise known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, which is a dangerous overreach by the federal government into the administration of elections.

Each state legislature should have the freedom and flexibility to determine practices that best meet the needs of their respective states. A one-size-fits-all approach mandated by Congress is not the solution to any of our problems.

These bills intrude upon our constitutional rights, and further sacrifice the security and integrity of the elections process. We firmly believe the authority to legislate and regulate these changes should be left with the states.

H.R. 1 and S. 1 blatantly undermine the extensive work we, as election officials, have completed in order to provide safe, accessible voting options for our constituencies. Many of the proposed practices would reverse the years of progress that has been made. We are strongly opposed to these bills and hope you will dismiss efforts to advance this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter.

/SIGNED/

John H. Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State

Kevin Meyer
Alaska Lieutenant Governor

Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State

Connie Lawson
Indiana Secretary of State

Scott Schwab
Kansas Secretary of State

Michael Adams
Kentucky Secretary of State

Kyle Ardoin
Louisiana Secretary of State

Bob Evnen
Nebraska Secretary of State

Alvin A. Jaeger
North Dakota Secretary of State

Steve Barnett
South Dakota Secretary of State

Tre Hargett
Tennessee Secretary of State

Mac Warner
West Virginia Secretary of State

Ed Buchanan
Wyoming Secretary of State

Slatery signs onto GOP AGs’ letter criticizing congressional voting bill

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 has signed on to a letter urging the defeat of a bill by congressional Democrats they say would “federalize state elections and impose burdensome costs and regulations on state and local officials.”

The letter is written by Indiana AG Todd Rokita and joined by 19 others including Slatery.

Here’s the full text (footnotes omitted):

Dear Madame Speaker, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell:

As the chief legal officers of our states, we write regarding H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021 (the “Act”) and any companion Senate bill. As introduced, the Act betrays several Constitutional deficiencies and alarming mandates that, if passed, would federalize state elections and impose burdensome costs and regulations on state and local officials. Under both the Elections Clause of Article I of the Constitution and the Electors Clause of Article II, States have principal—and with presidential elections, exclusive— responsibility to safeguard the manner of holding elections. The Act would invert that constitutional structure, commandeer state resources, confuse and muddle elections procedures, and erode faith in our elections and systems of governance. Accordingly, Members of Congress may wish to consider the Act’s constitutional vulnerabilities as well as the policy critiques of state officials.

First, the Act regulates “election for Federal office,” defined to include “election for the office of President or Vice President.”1 The Act therefore implicates the Electors Clause, which expressly affords “Each State” the power to “appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” the state’s

allotment of presidential electors, and separately affords Congress only the more limited power to “determine the Time of chusing the Electors.” That exclusive division of power for setting the “manner” and “time” of choosing presidential electors differs markedly from the collocated powers of the Article I Elections Clause, which says that both States and Congress have the power to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of congressional elections. That distinction is not an accident of drafting. After extensive debate, the Constitution’s Framers deliberately excluded Congress from deciding how presidential electors would be chosen in order to avoid presidential dependence on Congress for position and authority. Accordingly, the Supreme Court, in upholding a Michigan statute apportioning presidential electors by district, observed that the Electors Clause “convey[s] the broadest power of determination” and “leaves it to the [state] legislature exclusively to define the method” of appointment of electors. McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 27 (1892) (emphasis added). The exclusivity of state power to “define the method” of choosing presidential electors means that Congress may not force states to permit presidential voting by mail or curbside voting, for example.

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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?”

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.

Report: Tennessee ranks 45th in voter engagement

As early voters prepare to head to the polls this week, a new study by personal finance site WalletHub finds Tennessee ranks sixth from the bottom in terms of voter engagement.

The rankings place Tennessee above only West Virginia, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Hawaii. The most engaged voters were found in Maine, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, and Wyoming.

Tennessee’s rating was determined by looking at six categories as the compare with the rest of the country:

  • Percentage of registered voters in 2016 presidential election: 37th.
  • Percentage of electorate who voted in 2018 midterm elections: 39th.
  • Percentage of electorate who voted in 2016 presidential election: 48th.
  • Change in percentage of electorate who voted in 2016 elections vs. 2012 elections: 33rd.
  • Total political contributions per adult population: 30th.
  • Voter accessibility policies: 35th.

Deadline to register to vote in Aug. 6 primary is upon us

Image: Secretary of State’s office.

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote for the Aug. 6 primary.

Registrations can be mailed or handed in to county election commissions or submitted online to through the Secretary of State’s website. Choosing the online route will make first-time voters ineligible to cast absentee ballots.

Early voting begins on July 17.

This year’s primary election includes a hard-fought contests for the Republican nominations to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). There’s also several open races and contested primaries for state House and Senate seats.

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).

 

 

UPDATE: Voucher compromise approved by both chambers

The House voted 51-46 to approve the compromise on Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher bill. The Senate followed suit 19-14 later in the day. The freshman governor says he “looks forward to signing this bill into law.”

Here’s the House vote:

The vote was 50-48 when it cleared the chamber the first time. There were several changes between the two votes, though. they include:

From no to yes: Reps. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Chattanooga), David Wright (R-Corryton).

From absent to yes: Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington).

From yes to abstain: Reps. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin).

(After the vote was all over, Daniel and Ogles filed paperwork to change their votes to be in favor of the measure. That change of heart will be reflected in the House Journal, but doesn’t affect the official tally taken through the voting machine).

The Senate lost one vote from its previous version when Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) switched from yes to no.

 

 

Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee met over the weekend to re-elect Scott Golden as chairman and to make several policy recommendations to the GOP-controlled General Assembly. They include a call to require party registration in order to vote in primaries. The proposal comes on the heels of 792,888 people voting the Republican gubernatorial primary in August.

Democrats oppose the move.

“No Tennessean should be required to join a political party in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, including independent voters,” Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement. “And as the share of independent voters continues to increase in Tennessee, this move would suppress them from making their voices heard in the primary process.”

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TN delegation split on $1.3 trillion federal spending vote

The Tennessee congressional delegation split in voting on a $1.3 trillion federal spending plan that passed the U.S. House 256-157 on Thursday and the Senate 65-32 early Friday morning. The measure funds the government through Sept. 30.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes and, prior to the vote, issued a press release praising several of the spending items in the package. Republican Sen. Bob Corker voted no and, prior to the vote, declared in a floor speech that the bill was the most “grotesque” seen in his 11 years of service.

In the House, yes votes in the Tennessee delegation came from Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ootelwah, Phil Roe of Johnson City and David Kustoff of Germantown along with Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville.

The Tennessee no votes came from Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Diane Black of Gallatin, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan of Knoxville and Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis.

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