Category Archives: voting

Online voter registration approved

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would allow Tennesseans to register to vote online.

The House unanimously passed a bill that the Senate had earlier approved. The measure allows Tennesseans to go online to register to vote or update their registration records. Applicants would be directed to apply on paper if their name, date of birth or other identifying information could not be confirmed with the Department of Safety.

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored the House bill (HB1742), said there would be safeguards to discourage voter fraud.

The move toward online voter registration is part of a growing national trend backed by bipartisan support that began after Arizona first implemented its own system in 2002. As of April 6, a total of 31 states plus the District of Columbia offer online voter registration, and at least four states have passed legislation that would allow citizens to register via the Internet, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The online registration systems are secure, a report released last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts said.

“Studies consistently show that online voter registration systems effectively protect voters’ private information,” the Pew report said. “All states employ safeguards meant to thwart cyberattacks, and to date, no state has reported a security breach.”

The online voter registration system would in place by July 2017 if Gov. Bill Haslam signs the bill.

Note: The bill, of course, is virtually guaranteed a gubernatorial signature. Previous post HERE.

Senate kills referendum on decriminalizing marijuana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that would have allowed Tennesseans to weigh in on whether to decriminalize possession of low-level amounts of marijuana has failed in the Legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed the proposal on Tuesday.

The measure (SB2321), which was sponsored by Memphis Democrats Antonio Parkinson and Sara Kyle, would not have legalized marijuana possession. Instead, it would have allowed voters to make their opinion known on whether police should arrest people in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less or give them a warning instead.

The proposal would have allowed Metro governments or municipalities with their own police departments to put the question on whether to arrest or warn to voters during a normal election. The results of the election would be advisory only.

Legislators debate — but don’t act — on popular election of presidents

Tennessee legislators have dodged a vote on a controversial nationwide push for election of United States president through popular vote — the equivalent of a rejection that undermines an effort approved in 11 other states.

The proposed “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” basically calls for states to enter into an agreement to have their representatives to the Electoral College cast ballots for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote, not the candidate who wins their home state. The bill — HB1728 — to have Tennessee join the compact was sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

Tracy never brought the bill up for consideration in a committee. Sexton did two weeks ago, triggering a lengthy hearing with several proponents and opponents from across the nation appearing to testify before the House Local Government Committee. Among supporters was Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Among opponents was John Ryder of Memphis, who now serves as general counsel to the RNC and is also a member of the RNC board.

State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, meanwhile, testified — without declaring preference one way or the other on the general concept of a popular election of the president — that the proposed compact conflicts substantially with current Tennessee election laws. If the bill was enacted, Goins said, it would inevitably lead to lawsuits and great confusion with the stakes conceivably including who serves as the nation’s president.

After the hearing, Sexton put off any vote on the measure until last week, when he quietly took the bill “off notice” at the committee’s last scheduled meeting of the 2016 session, meaning apparently no vote will be sought.

Final Super Tuesday TN vote totals

The Associated Press

President Dem – Primary
(1,998 of 1,998 precincts – 100 percent)

x-Hillary Clinton 245,304 – 66 percent
Bernie Sanders 120,333 – 32 percent
Uncommitted 3,433 – 1 percent
Martin O’Malley 2,012 – 1 percent

President GOP – Primary
(1,998 of 1,998 precincts – 100 percent)

Jeb Bush 9,543 – 1 percent
Ben Carson 64,846 – 8 percent
Chris Christie 1,249 – 0 percent

Ted Cruz 211,159 – 25 percent
Carly Fiorina 713 – 0 percent
John Kasich 45,243 – 5 percent

Marco Rubio 180,989 – 21 percent
x-Donald Trump 332,702 – 39 percent
Uncommitted 1,837 – 0 percent
Jim Gilmore 270 – 0 percent

Lindsey Graham 256 – 0 percent
Mike Huckabee 2,404 – 0 percent
George Pataki 188 – 0 percent
Rand Paul 2,336 – 0 percent
Rick Santorum 710 – 0 percent

Note: The state Division of Elections has county-by-county votes on its website. Republican county results HERE, Democratic results by county HERE.

TN early voting in presidential primary sets record

Tennesseans cast ballots in record numbers during the early voting period for the March 1 presidential primary, according to Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

The total early votes cast, according to the Division of Elections website Wednesday afternoon, was 385,653 — 257,209 in the Republican primary, 128,374 in the Democratic primary.

The previous record was 329,154 early votes in the 2008 presidential preference primary. or 16.4 percent fewer than this year. in 2012, the early presidential primary early vote total was just 192,362.

The state has about 3.9 million registered voters, Hargett said. In past presidential primaries the early vote has amounted to around 25 to 30 percent of the total vote cast.

If it turns out that 25 percent voted early this year, that would mean a total turnout of about 1.5 million. At 30 percent, that would translate into about 1.3 million.

Mayor indicted for vote buying in Hancock County

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
JOHNSON CITY – Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have obtained indictments for an elected official and an associate in an ongoing vote buying investigation.

At the request of former 3rd District Attorney General Berkeley Bell, TBI Special Agents began investigating Wayland Dean Rhea and Lowell Ray King on July 30, 2014. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that earlier in 2014, Rhea (the elected mayor of Sneedville) and King paid or offered to pay money to a voter to induce support for a candidate in a county-wide election.

Today, the Hancock County Grand Jury returned indictments, charging Rhea, 67, of Sneedville and King, 66, of Sneedville, with two counts each of Voter Bribery. Both men subsequently turned themselves in to authorities at the Hancock County Jail, where each was booked on $20,000 bond.

TN Secretary of State’s early voting press release

News release from Secretary of State’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (February 10, 2016) – Early voting for the March 1 presidential preference primary, or “SEC Primary,” begins today.

This election cycle voting early may be an important option because of unpredictable winter weather. The number of presidential candidates as well as the number of delegates could also create incredibly long ballots for some voters.

Six Southern states will join Tennessee to help decide who could be the next president of the United States. The Volunteer State’s clout could mean more primary interest than in years past.

“I’m trying to remember the last time we were seeing this much attention in a Republican primary, this many people paying attention to Tennessee and Southern states,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett told Politico late last year. “I can’t think of a time.”

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays and ends Tuesday, February 23. Some counties will be closed on Monday, February 15 for Presidents Day.
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Early voting starts today; GOP ballots include 428 delegate candidates

Early voting begins today for Tennessee’s March 1 presidential primary and, in 54 counties, there are primary elections on local offices as well. Republicans will also be voting on delegates to the Republican National Convention at both the statewide and congressional district level.

Each Republican voter can select 14 at-large state delegates and three congressional district delegates. (Democrats choose their delegates as a series of caucus events next month.)

From a Tennessean report:

The delegate portion of the primary — which includes 428 total delegate candidates across Tennessee — means the Republican primary ballot in Tennessee this year stretches around 10 pages long, perhaps even longer depending on the county.

…Here’s how to understand the Republican ballot:

• Each ballot begins with the choice for president, which will include candidates such as George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and others who have dropped out of the race at some point. Like any election, voters can pick only one candidate.

• Next, Republican primary voters can vote for 14 at-large delegates. Most are committed to a particular presidential candidate, but some are uncommitted. Voters can pick any delegate regardless of who they vote for president. There are 148 overall at-large candidates.

…• Voters also can vote for three delegates to represent their congressional districts.

…All told, the breakdown of the 58 delegates goes like this: 27 are congressional delegates, three from each district; 14 are elected at-large delegates; another 14 are appointed at-large delegates at a later time by the Tennessee Republican Party’s executive committee; and three additional delegates are picked by the Republican National Committee.

Delegates will represent the state party at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in July.

The top delegate vote-getter on March 1 won’t necessarily be an individual who is listed as being committed to Tennessee’s presidential primary winner.

But it wouldn’t matter if that scenario happens, according to Haynes. That’s because a complex formula based largely on proportionality decides how many delegates are allocated to each candidate.

The most likely part of this formula that will apply to the upcoming election refers to a race in which no candidate receives more than two-thirds of the vote. In this scenario, at-large delegates are awarded proportionately to only those candidates who get at least 20 percent of the vote.

Legislators propose online voting registration

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), January 15, 2016 – Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) have filed legislation providing for the establishment of an online voter registration system for Tennesseans. Voters with an unexpired driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Safety will be able to go to an official state website where they will be able to register to vote online.

“In an electronic age, it makes sense to provide electronic registration if we have proper safeguards and validation steps,” said Senator Yager. “This legislation provides those assurances to make voter registration more convenient for Tennesseans and hopefully encourages more citizens to participate in the election process.”

“Online voter registration supplements the traditional paper-based registration process and will help encourage more Tennesseans to become involved in the political process,” said Representative McCormick. “We serve at the will of the people and I look forward to having even more constituents provide their input on important legislative decisions made within the General Assembly.”
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Federal judge upholds TN voter photo ID law

A federal judge in Nashville has upheld Tennessee’s voter ID law prohibiting the use of student identification cards at the polls, reports The Tennessean.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger on Monday granted the state’s request to dismiss the case and upheld the law as constitutional. The students who brought the case in March wanted to use their school identification cards to vote and said the state denying them the ability to do that was age discrimination.

Her ruling comes after four years of debate over Tennessee’s law but does not necessarily end discussion because the ruling could be appealed.

…Trauger’s ruling is largely based on a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case called Crawford vs. Marion County Election Board. That case upheld Indiana’s law requiring voters to show photo identification as a constitutional way to prevent voter fraud. It also said that requiring people to get state identification cards did not create enough burden for the court to overturn the law.

“Under the Tennessee Voter ID Law, everyone is required to obtain some form of acceptable photo identification in order to vote,” Trauger wrote in the memo. “Students, like everyone else, can select among a state-issued driver license, a United States passport, or the free, state-issued non-driver identification card.

“Admittedly, allowing students to use these cards (student IDs) would make it easier for them to vote, but it does not automatically follow that not allowing them to use their student identification cards imposes a severe burden or otherwise abridges their right to vote.”

The case was filed by the Fair Elections Legal Network and the Nashville firm of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison on behalf of a group of students from the Nashville Student Organizing Committee and seven students from Tennessee State University, Belmont University and Fisk University. Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins were named as defendants.