Editor’s note. In 2014, voters in Tennessee added “Amendment 1” to the state Constitution. The key wording is in the beginning: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The following excerpt comes from a post by Tennessee Right to Life, NRLC’s state affiliate
In an unprecedented decision, Sharp directed state election officials to undertake a recount of the November 2014 general election and to void all ballots cast on Amendment 1 by voters who did not also vote in the governor’s race.
On Tuesday, Tennessee’s Attorney General announced an appeal of Sharp’s ruling to the U.S. Sixth Circuit stating, “We obviously disagree with the federal court’s decision…Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee Court.”
In a separate action, Daniel Horwitz, counsel for the Yes on 1 Ballot Committee, prepared a motion asking state court Judge Michael Binkley to allow supporters of the pro-life amendment to intervene in the case in order to address the unique harm threatened to YES voters that the federal judge seeks to disenfranchise.
“The right to vote is precious, and Amendment 1 supporters who were just stripped of their right to vote as a consequence of Judge Sharp’s ruling deserve a voice in this proceeding,” said Horwitz. “We strongly believe that the Tennessee Constitution does not compel voters to vote for candidates whom they do not support in order to be allowed to exercise their right to vote on constitutional amendments.”
The motion includes affidavits from 7 Tennessee voters who did not vote in the 2014 governor’s race. Each offers a diverse basis for their decision including 2 self-identified democrats who voted for the amendment but did not cast a vote in the governor’s race due to their view that there was not a credible gubernatorial candidate to support on the democratic ticket.
“I have worked to protect the rights of voters in the United States since the 1960s, when my family and I worked to ensure African Americans’ right to vote,” states Dr. David Cassel of Nashville in his affidavit submitted to the state court. “I am deeply aggrieved that my right to vote on an important amendment to Tennessee’s Constitution might be ripped away from me solely because I did not vote for a candidate for governor.”
Conversely, several Republicans signed affidavits stating support for Amendment 1 but reluctance to support incumbent governor Bill Haslam due to differences in policy and philosophy.
The 7 affidavits were filed by 5 women and 2 men and include a social worker, retired physician, mechanical engineer, Army veteran, and a Vanderbilt professor.
Speaking on their behalf, attorney Horwitz underscored the motion’s purpose. “We intend to obtain an authoritative ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court, and we will vigorously defend all voters’ unencumbered right to vote at every step of this process.”
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