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Court rules for Tennessee voters

It's a victory. Finally. Tennessee must give all of its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, a judge ruled Thursday.

The judge, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, said the state's limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute "an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

That means any eligible voter can get an absentee ballot to avoid contracting or passing on COVID-19 in upcoming elections "during the pendency of pandemic circumstances," according to Lyle's ruling.

The decision upends, rightly, a determination by Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett's office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls wouldn't qualify someone to vote by mail.

The state had argued such an expansion wouldn't be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other things.

The judge wasn't having it, writing that the state took an "unapologetic" position and relied on "oddly skewed" assumptions — including assuming preparations for 100% of registered voters to vote absentee. Not all will, of course. And 11 other states already have taken a "can-do approach." Additionally, two-thirds of states have allowed vote by mail for everyone for years.

We are talking, however, about Tennessee.

Hargett spokeswoman Julia Bruck indicated that the fight is expected to head for an appeal, and the attorney general's office blasted the court's decision as failing to appropriately consider the "extensive safety measures" within the state's COVID-19 election plan.

Those would be similar to the state's extensive safety measures that are allowing Tennessee's COVID-19 cases to continue to rise, right?

 

Fact-checking Trumpian mail-in claims

Speaking of mail-in votes, let's talk about Trump's newest press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

You know her. She's the newest blonde in the White House — the one who promised on her first day, May 1: "I will never lie to you. You have my word on that."

Ahem. Well, we confess not to have fact-checked her before now, but here we are a little over a month later and one particular set of voting comments stand out for us after last week when she went to some bizarre lengths to defend President Donald Trump's ridiculous attack on mail-in voting.

First she pointed to a Pew study "that shows there's plenty of reason to believe that mass — in the mass mail-in system that there is fraud. They estimated that approximately 24 million — one out of every eight voters registered in the U.S. — are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. ... More than 1.8 million have been deceased, they estimated."

For starters, the report is more than eight years old. Secondly, it points to inefficiency and error. Not fraud and not would-be fraud. Further, in the time since the study was done, many states, including Tennessee, have made draconian voter purges — including people who haven't voted in two election cycles but are neither dead nor moved from their polling locales.

Then McEnany piped up that voter registration in Los Angeles County was "112 percent" of the county's eligible population. Hello! She's an information professional. She should know better. The claim was debunked more than a year ago after it was peddled by conservative activist Charlie Kirk on Twitter.

The number came from a 2017 lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, which misrepresented what the number actually was. The number certainly wasn't evidence of mass voter fraud. Rather, it was the count of both active and inactive registered voters there. Inactive voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots in elections in California, but the California Elections Code prevents inactive voters from being mailed any election materials. Just recently, even after California's decision to allow mail-in voting, a representative of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told PolitiFact: "Only active registered voters will be mailed a ballot ahead of the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election."

Add to this, that anyone's Google of California's voter registration, county by county, will find that of Los Angeles County's 6.1 million eligible voters, 89.6% were registered as of Feb. 18, 2020.

Will she lie to us? Jury's still out. But it's clear she sure won't do enough homework to make valid claims.

 

Then there's Georgia ...

Early voting for Georgia's June 9 primary ended Friday, but we won't know the results — even early voting final turnout numbers — until later this week: Absentee ballots returned by mail will be counted if they're received by election offices by Tuesday. Additionally voters could choose to deliver their absentee ballots by hand to drop boxes any time before 7 p.m. Tuesday.

But as of Thursday, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that more than 1.1 million Georgia voters had already cast their primary ballots, including 262,000 in-person voters and another 847,000 who had returned absentee ballots.

That's already a record number of remote voters — and a sign of things to come.

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