Statement on Senate State and Local Government Committee’s Failure to Temporarily Expand Absentee Voting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 4, 2020) – The Senate State and Local Government Committee, in today’s afternoon session, rejected a bill that would have temporarily expanded absentee voting for the November election if a State of Emergency is in effect. The amendment was introduced by Senator Steve Dickerson (R–Nashville) on a bill by Senator Katrina Robinson (D–Memphis).

“Today Senators from both sides of the aisle supported an amendment to temporarily expand absentee voting,” said Shanna Singh Hughey, president of ThinkTennessee. “Ultimately, though, the Senate Committee missed its opportunity to give Tennesseans the freedom to choose how to cast their ballots during the pandemic. With our elections quickly approaching, now is the time to find solutions for the state that, last presidential election, ranked #49 for voter turnout.”

Last month, the Tennessee Division of Elections released its contingency plan for holding elections during a pandemic. That plan contemplates the challenges Covid-19 poses for voters and poll workers, but it does not make accommodations for voters who say they want the option to vote absentee this year.

Today, Tennessee is one of just five states that will require most voters to appear in person to cast their ballots. Up to $55 million in federal funding, some of which must be spent on coronavirus response, is available to make new investments in Tennessee elections. Temporarily expanding absentee voting for November would cost far less than that.