Sumner County Democratic Party passed a resolution on June 5 asking Gov. Bill Lee to use his emergency management powers of the governor under law to issue an executive order suspending certain provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-6-201 (Absentee Voting Eligibility) to authorize absentee ballot on demand for the remainder of the 2020 election season as another gubernatorial proactive step to prevent a substantial risk to public health and safety of Tennesseans.
On March 12, Gov. Lee declared a state of emergency for the State of Tennessee, and on March 20, Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt issued a declaration of Local State of Emergency proclaiming that the COVID-19 outbreak in Sumner County constitutes an emergency.
By June 4, there have been 938 cases and 46 deaths because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sumner County. The Joint COVID-19 Task Force has predicted that the cases of COVID-19 will likely last well into the summer months when early voting begins for the 2020 State and Federal Primary Elections.
It most definitely will resurge again in the fall months during the 2020 Presidential Elections. CDC recommends precautions for preventing spread of COVID-19 in election polling locations by encouraging mail-in methods of voting.
The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted primary elections in several states. Forcing voters, especially immunocompromised citizens, who are less than 60 years old to take health risks by going to a crowded polling station is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans With Disabilities Act and human rights acts provide protections to persons with disabilities and persons who are immunocompromised by virtue of disease.
CARES Act includes $400 million in new Help America Vote Act (HAVA) emergency funds, made available to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle. U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), has provided states with additional resources to protect the 2020 elections from the effects of the novel coronavirus. State of Tennessee has $9,578,738 for election safety and security spending.
Every Tennessean regardless of their political affiliation should be able to vote safely. It is a bipartisan issue. The right to vote is a fundamental right under the Constitution of the United States and the State of Tennessee.
In these unprecedented and turbulent times, the SCDP believes that it is of paramount importance that the citizens’ fundamental right to safe & accessible voting is preserved and protected. The most important civic duty, the patriotic act of casting a ballot, should not pose a risk to the health of Tennessee's voters and their loved ones.
Hana Ali is the chair of the Sumner County Democratic Party.