Tennessee makes mail voting form changes ordered by judge

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee election officials on Thursday made changes to the absentee voting application, a move ordered when a judge scolded them for making their own edits after she required a universal mail-in voting option during the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s website and the vote-by-mail application were amended the same day Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ordered the change.

While ruling in favor of the absentee voting expansion last Thursday, the judge initially ordered that the newly eligible by-mail voters could pick an existing box to explain the necessity of voting by mail due to illness, hospitalization or disability. But the state told local election officials last Friday to wait until new applications could be created to add wording about COVID-19 before sending forms to people seeking to vote by mail due to COVID-19 or illness. The state told local officials to start using the new form that evening.

Lyle said the state disobeyed her order, and ordered officials Thursday to remove the new category and update two existing categories with wording about COVID-19 to help clear up confusion she said the state had created. The judge made the actions and new instructions to local election officials due by noon Friday.

Lyle said she did not want a new category created, saying it segregated voters seeking to cast absentee ballots because of concerns over catching or spreading COVID-19 at the polls from other voters.

The state is hoping for a higher court to pause the absentee expansion pending appeal.

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