Court rules Tennessee in violation of order requiring absentee ballots for all eligible voters

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Tennessee judge has ordered the state to comply with a June 4 ruling requiring absentee voting be made available to every eligible voter for all elections in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle said the state must comply with the court’s order and instructed the state to fix its absentee voting request form by 5 p.m. June 12.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Tennessee, and Dechert LLP were in court Thursday to argue the state was in direct violation of that ruling.

A statement from the ACLU says the state was in violation “by explicitly instructing local elections officials to refrain from sending out absentee ballots to people who request them due to COVID-19 concerns. The ACLU had learned that, while the state had updated its forms and online guidance to appear as though people can request absentee ballots due to COVID-19, the state was segregating those requests.”

“The judge recognized the gravity of the state’s failure to comply with the order to make absentee ballots available to all eligible voters during COVID-19. Once again, the courts have recognized that no one should be forced to choose between their health and their vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

The ACLU says the case was brought on behalf of several Tennesseans whose health would be at risk if forced to vote in person while COVID-19 is spreading.

“People should not have to gamble with their health to participate in our democracy,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee legal director.

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