Tennessee to appeal federal Judge Kevin Sharp’s ruling singling out Amendment 1, leaves others intact

Editor’s note. Last Friday Judge Kevin Sharp ruled that as many as 80,000 votes cast in the 2014 vote on “Amendment 1” should be thrown out. Sharp took the position that if a voter voted only for the Amendment to the state Constitution, and not also for governor, the vote should not be counted, even though this had not been the practice for decades.

As NRL News Today reported, Judge Sharp’s decision came one day after Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley agreed with the state that Tennessee election officials’ method of counting votes was consistent with the state constitution. Binkley noted that the language in the Tennessee Constitution about how votes for amendments should be counted is “unambiguous.”

The following comes from Tennessee Right to Life, NRLC’s state affiliate.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley

Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley

Just a day after a state court judge ruled in favor of the state’s process for counting and ratifying votes on proposed amendments to the state constitution, a federal judge has ordered a recount of ballots on pro-life Amendment 1 and declared that some votes in support of the amendment be thrown out.

At question is the interpretation of Article XI, Section 3 of the state Constitution which now places state and federal judges favoring different readings of the same clause.

On Thursday, Williamson County Circuit County Judge Michael Binkley, sitting as Chancellor, ruled that there is no constitutional restriction or precondition on the right of a citizen to vote for or against a constitutional amendment and also voting in the gubernatorial election.

On Friday, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Kevin Sharp countered by ordering a recount of the Amendment 1 votes and affirming the arguments of Planned Parenthood plaintiffs that the manner of counting votes, specifically on Amendment 1, violates due process and equal protections clauses of the U.S. Constitution. As such, Sharp has ordered state election officials to prepare a timetable for a recount of the votes on Amendment 1.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp

“Tennessee Right to Life shares the view that the historic method of counting the votes and ratifying the results on Amendment 1 was followed in the exact way as every other amendment approved by the voters of our state,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “Having wasted millions of dollars trying to defeat Amendment 1 at the polls, Planned Parenthood is now asking the federal courts to do their dirty work and to steal the votes of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who voted yes on 1,” Harris said.

“That’s neither right nor fair and we remain confident that the will of the people will ultimately be upheld.”

It is unclear what effect the state court’s ruling may have on the ultimate outcome of the federal case but one possibility is that all voter-approved amendments will be challenged as a result of the pro-abortion lawsuit against Amendment 1.

“You can’t discriminate against one set of voters because you don’t like the outcome of an election and expect that it won’t have implications for other amendments passed by the exact same process and procedures,” Harris warned.