Bill to expand absentee vote by mail rights clears committee

A proposal to expand Tennessee’s limited absentee vote by mail program was approved by a House committee.

House Bill 965, sponsored by Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, District 54, would allow Tennesseans who are qualified to vote absentee by mail to do so immediately.

The measure would require absentee voters to submit an acceptable photo ID in the absentee voting process and eliminate the requirement that forces voters to cast a ballot in person prior to voting by mail.

After clearing the House Local Committee, the bill will be scheduled to be heard by the full House of Representatives.

Though the bill is limited to only absentee voting rights, any increase in the ways for Tennesseans to cast a ballot is good for democracy.

“I was glad to support a proposal that would make voting in Tennessee a little easier—especially for seniors who struggle to get out of the house or wait in lines,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, District 13.

Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34, who voted against the bill, asked about the potential for voter fraud.

In Tennessee, absentee voting by mail is one of the most secure ways to vote. According to the Secretary of State, there are 14 qualifications to be an absentee voter and eight separate requirements to prove your identity. If enacted, the bill would require absentee voters to also include a picture of their photo ID, adding a ninth requirement.

Additionally, voter fraud is statistically nonexistent in Tennessee, according to Fox 17. Federal court filings also show that President Donald Trump’s handpicked commission on voter fraud found no evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

A great reason to increase access to the ballot box in Tennessee is our low voter participation. Tennessee voters have ranked in the bottom five states for voter participation in the last three consecutive presidential elections.

And in 2018, Tennessee ranked 45th in voter turnout (44.7% of the eligible voting age population), according to Election Project.

How they voted: House Local Committee, 3/13. Bill passed on a voice vote.
Committee members:
Rep. Dave Wright, R-Corryton, District 19
Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, District 12
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, District 11
Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, District 56
Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, District 28
Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, District 30
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, District 13
Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, District 91
Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville, District 8
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, District 20
Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisberg, District 92
Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, District 31

Members requested to be recorded as voting No:
Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, District 32
Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, District 1
Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34