JUDGE: Tennesseans Who Live with a Virus-Susceptible Person May Mail Their Ballot

by Jonathan Mattise


NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A judge has ruled that Tennessee officials have to change the absentee ballot application again to reflect their promise to let voters cast mail ballots if someone in their household has an underlying health condition that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.

In her decision Friday, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle sided with arguments from the plaintiffs in a months-long absentee voting lawsuit. They pointed out that a deputy attorney general made the eligibility commitment for co-habitants in response to multiple questions in front of the state Supreme Court last month.

The change is the latest ordered in court for Tennessee’s excuse-based absentee voting system, which has drawn heightened attention due to the jump in demand for mail voting during pandemic times.

Steven Mulroy, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case, said it now appears that roughly two-thirds or more of Tennessee voters can choose to vote by mail for November.

The form was updated on the secretary of state’s website Monday to incorporate the latest change.

“Pretty much, if you’re not a twenty-something living with only twenty-somethings who never checks in on grandma, you’re probably absentee eligible,” Mulroy said.

In June, Lyle ordered that all eligible voters should have an absentee voting option during the health crisis, and that ruling was carried out during the Aug. 6 primary.

Then the state Supreme Court overturned the absentee expansion last month, restoring the excuse-based absentee voting system and citing the state’s promise — made for the first time in front of the high court — that people can vote by mail if they believe they or someone in their care face a higher risk of COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions.

Justices did not specifically make note of housemates of people with underlying health conditions. However, they did write that the state has to provide voters guidance that is “consistent with the State’s acknowledged interpretation” of who can vote by mail.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office said it’s been following the law and the Supreme Court ruling. But with the absentee form change about housemates, Hargett’s office said the judge is changing wording on the absentee application that she ordered.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the state removed mentions of COVID-19 from the form. Lyle then ordered the state to update it to note the disease and eligibility due to underlying conditions and caretaking.

“To be unequivocally clear, Chancellor Lyle is amending her own language – not language that state election officials wrote,” Hargett spokesperson Julia Bruck said. “In addition, the new language she added is nowhere in state law or the well-written, unambiguous Tennessee Supreme Court opinion.”

Hargett’s office has pointed to guidance from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention in advising voters about underlying conditions. The CDC says conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 range from cancer to obesity, while those that might increase the risk range from asthma to smoking.

Under its excuse-based system, Tennessee typically requires voters to fit into one of more than a dozen categories to vote by mail, ranging from being 60 or older to being sick.

Tennessee also can’t enforce another restriction on absentee voting due to a court ruling. This month, a federal judge blocked a state law that requires first-time voters to show an ID at the local election office first if they want to vote by mail.

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Jonathan Mattise is a reporter with The Associated Press.




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5 Thoughts to “JUDGE: Tennesseans Who Live with a Virus-Susceptible Person May Mail Their Ballot”

  1. CarlS

    Apparently masks are not effective, else why do “people who live with a Virus-Susceptible Person” need to vote from home?
    What about people who work with . . .
    It seems more about manipulation of the vote than the effects on private or public health.

  2. Bubba N.

    Judge Lyle is a proven leftist ghoul who fits right into the George Soros socialist program. But—like Mayor Cooper—Nashville elected her.

    Nashville will become another Portland-style dump if taxpayers do not stop electing democrats. These democrat judges and politicians are evil socialists who despise the US Constitution and freedom.

  3. John Bumpus

    Practically speaking, there probably is no less Conservative/Republican County in Tennessee than Davidson County (for the sake of argument here, I do not mention Shelby County). And there probably is no more liberal/left-wing/Dem county in our State than Davidson County.

    The voters of a judicial district in our State elect the Judges and the Chancellor thereof. (Tennessee Code Annotated, title 16, chapter 2, section 506, see paragraph 20 for Davidson County). Thus, Davidson County Judges and the Chancellor are likely to be very liberal/left-wing/Dem politically.

    Ordinarily, the State of Tennessee may not be sued. (TCA, title 20, chapter 13, section 102). But in those instances where the State of Tennessee can be sued (i.e., concerning constitutional questions, state and federal; concerning federal law; and, concerning those kinds of cases where the State of Tennessee has waived its sovereign immunity), suit often is brought in the Davidson County Chancery Court. {When a defendant is sued, suit is usually brought in the county where the defendant resides. (TCA, title 20, chapter 4, section 101 etc.). By law, Davidson County is the State Capital. (TCA, title 4, chapter 1, section 205). Thus, when the State of Tennessee is sued, suit is usually brought in the Davidson County Chancery Court which is the county of residence of the State, unless the legal issue involves land (or some other unique/special issue) and then the suit may be brought elsewhere.}

    To take the possible undue influence of liberal/left-wing/Dem politics ‘out of the equation’ in suits against the State of Tennessee like the case which is the subject of this news story, maybe the Tennessee General Assembly should consider amending existing State statutory law to provide that in cases by and against the State of Tennessee (where such cases are lawful), the Judges or the Chancellor who will decide the case shall not be the judicial officers who are elected by the voters of Davidson County, but rather such cases shall be decided by a judicial officer in a unique/special division of the Davidson County Court who is appointed in some other way—say, appointed by the Governor for a term of years.

    After all, decisions in such cases affect ALL of the people of the entire State of Tennessee, and it doesn’t seem fair to me that the judicial trial court power/judicial officers who now decide such cases should be entrusted to, and chosen by, only the voters of Davidson County alone! Just sayin’.

    1. agree with you 100%.i live in rural west tenn. why should this liberal hack have say over us. hopefully someone will seek federal help. seems like an equal protection issue to me.

  4. JB Taylor

    Liberal Judges doing anything they can to Interfere in the Election.