Extraction set Thursday for Amendment 1 voting info

TONY EUBANK Banner Staff Writer
Posted 8/17/15

The Bradley County Election Commission is joining other election offices statewide in extracting information from voting machines in response to litigation challenging the passage of Amendment 1 …

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Extraction set Thursday for Amendment 1 voting info

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The Bradley County Election Commission is joining other election offices statewide in extracting information from voting machines in response to litigation challenging the passage of Amendment 1 on Tennessee ballots last November.

The local office’s action will take place Thursday at 8 a.m., according to Fran Green, elections administrator.

According to a public notice by the Election Commission Office published in the Cleveland Daily Banner, information in voting machines used in the Nov. 14, 2014, elections will be extracted.

The amendment reads as follows: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The challenge to the controversial amendment came almost immediately after its passage by state voters. Challengers of the measure say the vote was skewed, claiming that proponents of the law took advantage of a little-known aspect of Tennessee law stating a legislatively referred constitutional amendment must earn a majority of those voting on the amendment, and "a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor."

The lawsuit, which was filed in Federal court by Nashville attorney Bill Harbison, claims that those pushing for the amendment’s passage encouraged voters to vote on Amendment 1 and not on the governor’s race, effectively doubling the power of their “yes” to Amendment 1 votes.

Specifically, the suit claims Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery, along with the seven members of the Tennessee Election Commission, violated voters’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution by not tabulating the votes on Amendment 1 in compliance with Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution.

Over 30,000 more people voted on Amendment 1 than did in the governor’s race.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee’s Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins have also been named as plaintiffs in the suit.

When asked about the extraction of the voting information, Green declined to comment, instead differing to the office of Hargett.

According to Adam Ghassemi, director of Communications for the secretary of state, the information gathered is part of the current litigation’s discovery process.

“Currently, the state is paying for the expense of retrieving the voting machine data,” Ghassemi told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “The expense is the result of a broad discovery request made by the plaintiffs. The costs are estimated to be between $200,000 and $300,000.”

Ghassemi explained there would be no changes to the voting machines in Bradley County and that this is simply an information-gathering process.

“We cannot comment in-depth about the ongoing litigation,” Ghassemi said.

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