In Court Hearing, Tennessee Changes Position On Who Could Qualify For Absentee Voting

Jul 31, 2020

At the core of the litigation is whether voters who fear contracting coronavirus can request an absentee ballot.
Credit Sergio Martínez-Beltrán / WPLN News

Election officials in Tennessee have now changed their position on who they deem eligible to vote absentee.

The state made its revelation Thursday at a state Supreme Court hearing, after previously resisting expanded mail-in voting.

At the core of the litigation is whether voters who fear contracting coronavirus can request an absentee ballot.

At the moment they can, even though the Tennessee Secretary of State has tried to prevent them.

But, during oral arguments, state attorney Janet Kleinfelter said people with preexisting conditions — who the state was initially against —now could actually vote this way.

“If the voter has made that decision then yes, they might vote absentee,” Kleinfelter said.

Her comments came after the justices pressed her on the issue. Justice Roger Page called Kleinfeltger out for the change.

“The original 82-page plan that the state had did not let these voters with underlaying conditions know that they could get an absentee ballot, right?” Page asked.

Kelinfelter conceded that the original plan put out by the secretary of state for the local election commissions didn’t spelled that out.

But, Angela Liu, who represents some of the plaintiffs, says the state’s last-minute leniency is not good enough.

“Even without underlying conditions, everyone faces the unconscionable choice between health risks and voting,” Liu said.

She hopes absentee voting will be upheld for everyone, as it was ordered by a lower court.

This story was reported by WPLN