Tag 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.

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

Libertarian drive seeks party label on TN November ballot

The Libertarian Party of Tennessee has launched a drive to collect enough signatures to have the party’s candidates listed on the November ballot by party label rather than as “independent.”

Excerpt from a Columbia Daily Herald column on the effort:

Under state law, Democrats and Republicans only need 25 signatures. But alternative parties need 34,000 valid signatures, almost double the votes Johnson received here in 2012. (Note: Gary Johnson was the Libertarian presidential nominee then and has been nominated again. A Politico report on the party convention and November prospects is HERE.)

Republicans, who control the state legislature, have stacked the deck against third parties. Lawsuits and proposed legislation have done little to change the atmosphere. Both Republicans and Democrats think Libertarians hurt their chances in tight races.

“The current political climate has many people looking for alternatives to the two major parties,” (Tennessee Libertarian Chairman Jim) Tomasik said. “In Tennessee, we in essence only have one major party due to the fact that the Democratic Party is dominated overwhelmingly by the Republican super majority.

“Tennesseans looking for more choices are invited to join our petition drive.”

Note: The Tennessee Libertarian Party’s website has a news release on the “ballot access drive” HERE, including a link to the petition form. An excerpt is below: Continue reading

Cost of abortion vote recount put at $1M

Election officials estimate the total cost to taxpayers of a court-ordered recount of Amendment 1, the 2014 abortion ballot measure, could be $1 million, according to The Tennessean.

But lawyers for the state are asking U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp to allow election officials to postpone any recount while they appeal his ruling.

Requiring county election officials to go through a recount process while preparing for upcoming state, local and federal elections in August and November would be “disruptive” and “interfere with the integrity of those elections,” election officials argued in declarations submitted to the court earlier this month.

In April, Sharp ordered a recount of the state’s controversial ballot measure, calling the method used to count votes “fundamentally unfair” to voters opposed to the measure.

Amendment 1 passed with 53 percent of the vote. The measure specifically removed the right to an abortion from the Tennessee Constitution. Its passage has led to new regulations of abortion clinics and a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

Within days of the election, however, eight voters opposed to the measure, including the board chairman of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee, filed suit, claiming the vote tabulation methods used by election officials violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution — and was contrary to language in the Tennessee Constitution that explains how votes for ballot measures should be counted.

Sharp’s order required election officials to count only those votes for or against the amendment that were cast by voters who also voted in the governor’s race.

Unlike a simple majority required for a candidate to succeed, the Tennessee Constitution requires amendments to pass by a majority of the votes cast in the governor’s race.

Sharp concluded that the language in the Tennessee Constitution require voters to vote in both races in order to have their votes counted for or against an amendment.