TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Kate Prince on Jul 30, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court today heard oral arguments on the expansion of absentee voting, the Tennessean reports. The high court heard arguments on whether concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus is a valid excuse to receive an absentee ballot. A lower court ruled last month that it was, but the state has appealed that decision all the way to the Supreme Court. Janet Kleinfelter, the attorney for the state, was questioned by all five justices, with Justice Sharon Lee reportedly becoming frustrated when asking Kleinfelter about the state’s position on voters with underlying health risks. Kleinfelter told the court that voters with health issues, or those living with them, would be able to request an absentee ballot. That position contradicts previous statements from Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, who was quoted in mid-May as saying, “fear of getting ill does not fall under the definition of ill.” Kleinfelter argued that the lower court erred in its ruling, which she said was open ended with "no limitation" on how long the state is mandated to apply the lower court's interpretation of the statute. It’s unclear when the justices will rule on the issue, with Chief Justice Jeff Bivins calling the decision an “incredibly important case for all Tennesseans.” You can watch the full recording of oral arguments on the TNCourts YouTube page