In response to the global pandemic and in preparation for upcoming elections, The Equity Alliance initiated a petition for Tennessee state officials to approve mail-in absentee ballots to vote by mail during the August 6 and November 3 election cycles.
It is undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic wreaked additional havoc on our democracy. All over the country, voters were packed in at polling locations and forced to put their health in jeopardy to cast their vote. We refused to let COVID-19 infect our elections. This was a challenge because Tennessee has some of the strictest laws for absentee voting. State law has 14 narrowly defined categories to qualify for the vote by mail option, none of which addressed people concerned with COVID-19 related concerns.
State officials including Gov. Bill Lee, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins, passively sat by without regard for good-faith actions towards the public’s health and safety. When asked what precautions they are taking to protect poll workers and voters, they passed the buck to the Tennessee General Assembly to do something about it. Their lack of leadership and compassion continued as they sat on $9.5+ million federal dollars designated to protect Tennessee elections from the coronavirus.
On Friday, May 1, 2020, we filed a federal lawsuit to ensure everyone who wanted to protect their health and their loved ones had the opportunity to request an absentee ballot in 2020. Although opposed by elected officials, the final ruling granted voters the right to choose absentee ballots regardless of age, health condition, or otherwise for the August 6 election.