Category Archives: voting

Sunday column: On TN campaign yawning

After spending most of the year fighting among themselves, Tennessee Democratic and Republican party operations now finally are poised to devote post-Labor Day attention to general election contests wherein candidates clash along party lines.

But there are really very few places to focus that attention beyond a national obsession with the presidential campaign. With the exception of a dozen or so races for state House and Senate seats, the outcome of state-level contests is already a foregone conclusion, just as it has been in the last couple of election cycles.

Maybe that’s why Tennessee barely escaped being dead last among the 50 states for voter turnout in 2014, according to a Pew Charitable Trust review of election data. Texas finished lowest with a turnout of 28.34 percent of registered voters. Tennessee’s turnout was just above that at 28.54 percent. Maine finished at the top of the national list with a 59 percent voter turnout. Continue reading

5 independents on TN ballot (4 with party affiliations)

Five people have been approved for listing as Independent candidates for president on Tennessee’s November ballot, including four who are otherwise designated as nominees by national party organizations less known than the Democratic and Republican parties.

Tennessee’s list of presidential candidates was finalized Thursday, according to a spokesman for the state Division of Elections, overseen by Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Only Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump will be identified by party affiliation on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot under a state law that has been the subject of lawsuits in recent years. But four are campaigning nationally as nominees of third parties. They are: Continue reading

TN voter turnout lowest in nation (almost) in 2014

Only Texas had a lower voter turnout rate than Tennessee in 2014 elections, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts review of statistics from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Tennessee turnout was 28.56 percent, the study says. In Texas, it was 28.34 percent. The turnout list is topped by Maine at 59 percent.

The state fared better in an overview rating of the election process, coming in 34th in what Pew calls “an elections performance index.” The EPI list is topped by North Dakota.

The study has state-by-state listings of performance in different areas. The Tennessee listing is HERE.

The report doesn’t cover 2016 elections. The state had a record turnout in the March 1 presidential primary, but the turnout in the Aug. 4 primaries and local elections was well below the 2014 level.

Supremes, appeals court judges win retention elections

All three state Supreme Court justices, appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to fill vacancies, won full terms in Thursday’s retention elections by better than 2-to-1 margins.

Results in the Supreme Court elections:

Supreme Court Retain Jeffrey Bivins
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 302,562 – 71 percent
No 125,113 – 29 percent

Supreme Court Retain Holly Kirby
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 302,069 – 71 percent
No 123,448 – 29 percent

Supreme Court Retain Roger Page
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 300,944 – 71 percent
No 123,796 – 29 percent
Continue reading

Democrats push change in TN voter ID law

Tennessee Democrats are calling on GOP lawmakers to revamp the state’s current photo voter-identification mandate to conform with five recent federal court decisions in other states, reports the Times Free Press.

Charging the 2011 legislation passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly is little more than a “Jim Crow law” intended to “suppress the vote,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said Tuesday federal court rulings in North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere send a message that “it’s time for Tennessee to get things right.”

In their Nashville news conference, Cooper and a group of state Democratic lawmakers also pointed to a 2014 U.S. General Accountability Office study of Tennessee and Kansas’ photo ID laws and their apparent impact on voting.

The study found that after its enactment, Tennessee voter turnout fell more steeply over a three-year period, especially among black and younger voters, than four other states that didn’t impose the tougher requirements.

Tennessee’s law requires state-issued photo ID such as a state Safety Department driver’s license or simple identification card, a state-issued handgun permit, a current U.S. passport and valid military ID.

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, who is black, said the Tennessee law’s “sole purpose is to prevent people of color and poor people and women and seniors and young people from going out and voting. And we’ve seen that most of that happened after the election of our president, President Obama.”

But state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro quickly pushed back, citing GOP lawmakers’ main argument when passing the voter ID law: voter fraud.

“It should not be easier to board a plane, cash a check, or buy cigarettes than to vote in Tennessee,” said Ketron, who sponsored the law, in a statement. “Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms and we must protect the integrity of our elections. The National Democratic Convention has even required a picture ID to get in and vote.”

…Tennessee’s law is deemed among the nine most stringent among states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization for states.

Early voting falls to half 2014 level

The state Division of Elections website reports today that 281,278 Tennesseans voted early for Thursday’s election – only about half the early vote reported in 2014 and below the 2012 early turnout as well.

The decline likely indicates a simple matter of voters having fewer races of statewide interest on the ballot than in recent past August elections.

Early voting for the Aug. 4 elections ended on Saturday. The reported statewide total includes 178,915 persons voting in Republican primaries versus 89,534 in Democratic primaries.

In 2014, the early vote prior to the August election totaled 564,733 – 354,226 Republicans and 164,939 Democrats.

In that year, of course, the primary ballot included statewide races for governor and the U.S. Senate plus a general statewide retention election for state Supreme Court justices that came with high-spending campaigns both for and against the three incumbent justices. This year there are no statewide primaries and, while three incumbent Supreme Court justices are again on the ballot, there is no organized opposition to giving them new full terms.

In 2012, the total early vote prior to the August elections was 316,686. Unlike this year, there was a U.S. Senate primary on the statewide ballot (Bob Corker’s reelection).

Early voting turnout running below 2014

The state Division of Elections is posting county-by-county early voting totals on its website, HERE. As of Wednesday morning, the statewide total was 48,314 early votes — 31,935 in Republican primaries, 13,111 in Democratic primaries.

Officials say turnout is running lower than in 2014, but on par with 2012 and some other years when there were no statewide primaries on the ballot — as the case in 2016. Continue reading

Early voting begins today for August primary

News release from Secretary of State’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (July 15, 2016) – Early voting for the August 4 state primary and county general election is now underway. Voting will continue Mondays through Saturdays and end Saturday, July 30.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett is encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting, which allows people to cast a ballot when it’s convenient for them.

“Tennesseans broke records during the March 1 ‘SEC Primary’ by taking advantage of early voting,” Secretary Hargett said. “It will be exciting to see Tennesseans participate in the electoral process this August and November.” Continue reading

Federal judge orders recount of Amendment 1 voting

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge on Friday ordered a recount of votes on a 2014 amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that made it easier to put restrictions on abortions.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp ruled that the method used to tabulate the votes on the amendment was “fundamentally unfair” to the eight Tennesseans who filed a lawsuit challenging the election results. Those who sued maintained that the state incorrectly interpreted the way the votes should be counted and tallied them in favor of abortion opponents.

“At issue,” Sharp’s ruling says, is the language in a 172-year-old sentence that says an amendment will become part of the state constitution “if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor.”
Continue reading

Judge rules votes correctly counted on Amendment 1

a Williamson County judge on Thursday has ruled against contentions that ballots were incorrectly counted in the 2014 statewide referendum on an amendment to the Tennessee constitution that made it easier for the legislature to enact abortion restrictions.

From The Tennessean report:

Eight voters opposing the measure, including the board chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee, filed suit in federal court contesting the state’s method of counting votes.

State lawyers, in turn, filed suit against those eight voters in a Williamson County court in September 2015, two months after a federal judge refused their request to dismiss the suit. The state in the Williamson County suit sought an order stating that Tennessee election officials’ method of counting votes was consistent with the state constitution.

In his 22-page order on Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley granted the state the order it was seeking. Binkley noted the language Tennessee Constitution on how votes for amendments should be counted is “unambiguous.”

Under the Tennessee Constitution, ballot measures require a different voting method than the simple majority required to elect a candidate. For an amendment to succeed, it must be ratified “by a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in their favor,” the Constitution says.

State election officials have long interpreted the language to mean that passage of an amendment depends on comparing the number of votes cast for governor with the number of votes cast for an amendment. To succeed, an amendment must get a majority of the number of votes cast for governor.

Voters challenging the measure say that the language means that only the voters who voted in the governor’s race can have their vote’s counted on a ballot measure.

It was a contention that Binkley dismissed, noting in his ruling that the Tennessee Constitution “does not precondition the right of a citizen to vote for or against a constitutional amendment upon that citizen also voting in a gubernatorial election.”