Tennessee absentee ballot controversy reaches political, legal ‘stalemate’

Tennessee absentee ballot controversy reaches political, legal ‘stalemate’
The Investigators: All Tennessee voters can request absentee ballots during the pandemic. What’s next and how do you get one? (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Officials could face steep consequences if they don’t comply with a judge’s ruling that everyone must have the chance to vote absentee in this year’s elections because of COVID-19 concerns.

Before that ruling, absentee ballot request forms only stated 14 categories that voters had to fit to be able to vote by mail.

Now she is requiring them to include a new line that says quote “and/or it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in-person due to the COVID-19 situation.”

The court said the state made the form confusing, so new language must be used.

The judge scolded them for it in a virtual hearing Thursday.

“Shame on you for not following that procedure and for just taking matters into your own hands,” said Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Lyle. “So, I’m calling the state out for not adhering to the standards of legal process.

Again she warned that if election officials don’t comply, they could be punished, possibly with jail time.

We also talked to WMC Action News 5 Political Analyst Michael Nelson, who says the courts are at a bit of an impasse.

“The state government is kind of saying we are not going to act on this until we know what the state Supreme Court says," said Nelson. "The judge in Nashville is saying you better start this now or else and so we’re in a bit of a political and legal stalemate.”

Nelson says the Judge and the state government are at odds so it’s up in the air how this will play out.

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