MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Judge Ellen Lyles in Davidson County’s Chancery Court ruled Thursday evening that all Tennessee voters can have access to absentee ballots.
For years, registered voters had to fall under one of 14 categories in order receive an absentee ballot. For example, a member or the military who is overseas or anyone over the age of 60.
Two lawsuits were filed in Chancery Court by voters who wanted to get rid of the requirements, clearing the path for anyone to request and vote by mail.
The hearing on the lawsuits, which took place virtually Wednesday, lasted over four hours.
“Competent medical evidence and health authorities will tell anybody going to a polling place where scores and hundreds of people are there breathing all day long, particularly those with underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 but really anybody, is taking a significant health risk by going to vote in person,” said attorney and University of Memphis professor Steve Mulroy.
Mulroy represented the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits.
“If some people prefer to vote in person, that’s their right but it should also be the right of people who have a healthy concern about this to vote by mail,” he told WMC Action News 5 after his victory.
The no-excuse waiver only applies for the August and November elections and then, Mulroy said he will take the case to the Tennessee legislature.
The lawsuits sued Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Election Commissioner Mark Goins and Attorney General Herbert Slatery III. Both offices released statements after the judge’s ruling.
“We disagree with the court’s ruling and anticipate the Attorney General to appeal the case. The health and safety of Tennessee’s voters and poll officials is of great importance. We continue preparations to protect voters, poll officials, and the security of Tennessee’s elections.” - Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
“It is yet another court decision replacing legislation passed by the people’s elected officials with its own judgment, largely ignoring the practicalities of implementing such a decision, and doing so in the midst of a pandemic and budget crisis,” said Herbert H. Slatery III.