John Prine’s wife urges Tennessee to expand absentee voting

Tennessee

FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2019 file photo, Fiona Whelan Prine, left, and John Prine arrive at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. The wife of the late celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine, who died from complications of COVID-19, is urging lawmakers to expand absentee voting so Tennesseans would not have to put their health at risk exercising their right to vote. Fiona Whelan Prine told a Senate panel Tuesday that allowing more people to cast an absentee ballot was critical in ensuring that people would remain safe and healthy during the 2020 election. Whelan Prine also contracted the coronavirus, but she has since recovered. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The wife of celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine, who died from complications of COVID-19, urged lawmakers Tuesday to expand absentee voting so Tennesseans would not have to put their health at risk exercising their right to vote.

Fiona Whelan Prine, who also contracted the coronavirus and has since recovered, told a Senate panel that allowing more people to cast an absentee ballot was critical in ensuring that people would remain safe and healthy during the 2020 election.

“This is not or should it be a partisan issues,” said Whelan Prine, who spoke over a video livestream and did not attend in person. “This is a serious health issue. And you, as our representatives, must advocate for our health, our safety and our right to participate in our Americana political process.”

Revered for his wise and witty lyrics, John Prine, 73, known for songs like “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other quirky original tunes.

Prine had survived throat and lung cancer, continuing to record and perform despite those illnesses.

“From March 26 until April 7, I waited at home for daily updates from the hospital as John lay alone, without me or our boys by his bedside as the virus ravaged his body,” Whelan Prine said. “I was given the opportunity to sit with him in the final hours of his life. He was unrecognizable from the man I had left at the doors of the Vanderbilt ER only 12 days earlier.”

“I do not wish this pain and trauma on any other American family, especially not my fellow Tennesseans,” she added.

Prine’s remarks come as top Tennessee election officials have repeatedly resisted calls to let more people vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, including Gov. Bill Lee and many inside the GOP-dominant Statehouse. The state currently faces three lawsuits to make that happen.

Meanwhile, shortly after Whelan Prine finished speaking, the Senate committee spiked an absentee ballot expansion proposal.

Tennessee voters can request absentee ballots starting May 8 for the Aug. 6 primary election. Early voting starts July 17.

The state has more than a dozen categories that qualify someone for an absentee ballot, from being sick to being 60 or older.

Quarantining due to potential exposure to the virus or testing positive are valid excuses, the state has said. However, officials also say fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19 are not valid reasons.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday for two of the state court lawsuits that seek vote by mail for all in the August and November elections: One filed by Memphis-based voting rights group #UpTheVote901 and several voters, and another led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Campaign Legal Center have also sued in federal court seeking absentee voting for all voters this year.

___

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Coronavirus COVID-19 videos

The Nation’s Doctor to America: #COVIDStopsWithMe

Thumbnail for the video titled "The Nation’s Doctor to America: #COVIDStopsWithMe"

Tennessee This Week: The mask mandate debate

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tennessee This Week: The mask mandate debate"

NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson tests postiive for COVID-19

Thumbnail for the video titled "NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson tests postiive for COVID-19"

Gov. Bill Lee issues executive order allowing county mayors to mandate masks

Thumbnail for the video titled "Gov. Bill Lee issues executive order allowing county mayors to mandate masks"

Sevier County leaders discuss implementing mask requirements

Thumbnail for the video titled "Sevier County leaders discuss implementing mask requirements"

Gov. Lee grants mayors in 89 counties authority to issue mask requirements

Thumbnail for the video titled "Gov. Lee grants mayors in 89 counties authority to issue mask requirements"

Mask mandate: Getting used to a new routine

Thumbnail for the video titled "Mask mandate: Getting used to a new routine"

KY nurse hospitalized with COVID-19

Thumbnail for the video titled "KY nurse hospitalized with COVID-19"

Coronavirus outbreak in University of Washington frat houses

Thumbnail for the video titled "Coronavirus outbreak in University of Washington frat houses"

Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 states

Thumbnail for the video titled "Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 states"

Officials announce 14-day quarantine for travelers coming into Chicago airports from COVID-19 hotspots

Thumbnail for the video titled "Officials announce 14-day quarantine for travelers coming into Chicago airports from COVID-19 hotspots"

Pellissippi State employee tests positive for COVID-19

Thumbnail for the video titled "Pellissippi State employee tests positive for COVID-19"

Ex-CDC director warns of outbreaks in five states

Thumbnail for the video titled "Ex-CDC director warns of outbreaks in five states"

Disney announces reopening dates for hotels, resorts

Thumbnail for the video titled "Disney announces reopening dates for hotels, resorts"

Myrtle Beach packed despite virus threat

Thumbnail for the video titled "Myrtle Beach packed despite virus threat"

Fauci to testify at a fraught time for US pandemic response

Thumbnail for the video titled "Fauci to testify at a fraught time for US pandemic response"

Tracking Coronavirus: 135 active cases in Knox Co.; KCHD says increase is "concerning"

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tracking Coronavirus: 135 active cases in Knox Co.; KCHD says increase is "concerning""

Trending Stories

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter