The Tennessee Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that would have allowed all Tennesseans to vote by mail to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19.
That means, if voters want to mail in a ballot for November’s general election, they will need a valid qualification under existing Tennessee state law. Wednesday’s decision does not affect the ballots cast for Thursday’s primary election.
“Because absentee ballots already have been cast for the August 6, 2020 election and because courts avoid changing election rules on the eve of an election, the Court held that the ballots shall be counted,” the court said in a statement.
The state’s high court said in its majority ruling that Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle erred in June when she ruled that state election officials needed to expand absentee voting to include anyone who had a fear of the coronavirus.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that those at high risk of complications from COVID-19 or who care for a high-risk patient are already eligible to vote absentee and that, for those who don’t qualify, the state “sufficiently justified the moderate burden that the laws limiting absentee voting placed on the right to vote.”
Neighboring states, including Alabama and Arkansas, changed state laws in order to expand mail-in voting because of COVID-19. But other southern states, including Mississippi and Kentucky, have required an excuse beyond coronavirus fears.