Advocates Urge 6th Circuit to Protect Voting Rights of Pro-Life Tennesseans
Nashville, October 14, 2016--On Friday morning, supporters of the 2014 Amendment dealing with abortion regulation in Tennessee filed a Friend of the Court brief as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to consider arguments as to whether the votes of some pro-life Tennesseans may be thrown out.
8,850 Tennessee voters joined their names to the brief on behalf of the Yes on 1 campaign arguing that the campaign has a direct interest not only in supporting Amendment 1's ratification, but also in ensuring that the constitutional right to vote guaranteed to each Tennessean is fully protected.
On November 4, 2014, Amendment 1 was passed by a vote of 53% to 47%. Three days later, supporters of Planned Parenthood filed suit in Federal District Court insisting that the minority must prevail over the majority because "certain votes in favor of Amendment 1 receive(d) disproportionate weight..."
Earlier this year, Federal District Judge Kevin Sharp sided with Planned Parenthood and ordered that the votes of potentially tens of thousands of voters be disqualified on the basis that "voting for governor is a precondition to having a vote on an amendment count." Sharp has directed state election officials to prepare to recount the 2014 ballots, an order that has been stayed pending a decision by the 6th Circuit in the case.
"The people of Tennessee spoke with their votes in 2014," said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. "Pro-life advocates organized early to win Amendment 1 and then worked the campaign plan all the way to the closing of the polls on election night. As a result of focused hard work and sacrifice, the amendment was won in 88 of 95 counties. That's how our political system works and we fully expect the courts to uphold the votes of every Tennessean, including those who supported the passage and ratification of Amendment 1."
Tennessee election law expert Daniel Horwitz filed the brief on behalf of Yes on 1 saying "This is not a case about whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. This is a case about whether one believes that people who are pro-life should have the right to vote."
As the case unfolds, additional briefs and oral arguments by both sides are expected to be scheduled by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Nashville, June 7, 2016---Citing the estimated $1 million dollar cost of conducting a recount of ballots on Amendment 1, Federal District Judge Kevin Sharp has agreed to put the recount on hold pending outcome of the state's appeal of Sharp's earlier ruling to the 6th circuit court of appeals in Cincinnati.
This represents a significant win for the state and for citizens who shouldn't have to fund an unnecessary recount based solely on Planned Parenthood's opposition to the outcome of the 2014 amendment vote.
Both sides now wait for the appeals process to be scheduled by the U.S. 6th Circuit.
"The Yes On 1 Campaign sought to intervene in this case to ensure that the court considered the voices of real voters who were threatened with the unacceptable possibility of being disenfranchised," said Daniel Horwitz, attorney for YES on 1 Ballot Committee. "We are deeply grateful that the court recognized these voters' concerns and addressed them by holding unambiguously that its ruling applies retrospectively to Amendment 1, and that every vote cast in that election counted."
State Court Judge Declines to Allow YES on 1 as Party to Lawsuit
Reaffirms earlier ruling asserting the state's method of counting votes on Amendment 1 is correct
Counsel for the YES on 1 Ballot Committee argued today in state court for the right to intervene specifically on behalf of YES voters threatened with having their votes thrown out. This, following a wrong ruling in April by Federal Judge Kevin Sharp who is demanding a recount of the 2014 election results on Amendment 1.
Sharp says that those voters casting a ballot for Amendment 1 but not in the governor's race should not be counted.
While denying intervenor status to YES on 1 today, state court Judge Michael Binkley strengthened the state's case in support of the 2014 vote count and ratification of Amendment 1. Binkley reiterated that his previous ruling in support of the state's method of counting votes applies unambiguously to Amendment 1 and the 2014 election.Read more
Yes on 1 Campaign Seeks to Intervene On Behalf of Voters Threatened with Disenfranchisement
Motion Filed Friday Morning in State Court
Nashville, April 29, 2016---A motion filed Friday morning by proponents of Yes on 1 seeks to intervene on behalf of state voters who are threatened with having their votes thrown out as a result of last week's ruling by federal Judge Kevin Sharp. In an unprecedented decision, Sharp directed state election officials to undertake a recount of the November 2014 general election and to void all ballots cast on Amendment 1 by voters who did not also vote in the governor's race.
On Tuesday, Tennessee's Attorney General announced an appeal of Sharp's ruling to the U.S. Sixth Circuit stating, "We obviously disagree with the federal court's decision...Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee Court."
In a separate action, Daniel Horwitz, counsel for the Yes on 1 Ballot Committee, prepared a motion asking state court Judge Michael Binkley to allow supporters of the pro-life amendment to intervene in the case in order to address the unique harm threatened to YES voters that the federal judge seeks to disenfranchise.Read more
TN Attorney General Appeals Pro-Abortion Ruling to 6th Circuit
"We obviously disagree with the federal court's decision...Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee Court." Harlow Sumerford, spokesman for Attorney General's Office
Tennessee Right to Life expresses gratitude to the many public officials who are working tirelessly to defend the outcome of Amendment 1 and the right of Tennesseans to cast their votes according to their conscience. In particular, pro-life Tennesseans owe a debt of gratitude to Governor Bill Haslam, Attorney General Herbert Slatery, Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins and state Senator Randy McNally for making defense of the election a true priority.
Tuesday afternoon it was announced that the state is appealing the wrong ruling issued last Friday by federal Judge Kevin Sharp. Sharp ordered election officials to count only those votes for or against the amendment that were cast by voters who also voted in the governor's race. Other pro-life votes in favor of Amendment 1 are to be thrown out, according to Sharp's ruling.
This decision came just a day after state court Judge Michael Binkley ruled in a separate lawsuit that the state's historic manner of counting votes and ratifying proposed amendments is constitutional according to the Tennessee Constitution, thus upholding the ouctome of Amendment 1.Read more
The good news: On Thursday, state Court Judge Michael Binkley upheld the November 2014 vote on Amendment 1 and the state's method of counting the votes on proposed amendments as correct under the Tennessee Constitution. This victory is key because ultimate interpretation of the Tennessee Constitution belongs with the state courts and state court judges.
Second, the bad news: On Friday, Federal Court Judge Kevin Sharp demanded a recount of the ballots on Amendment 1 and held that any ballots on which Tennesseans voted for Amendment 1 but did not vote in the Governor's race must be thrown out. Sharp's basis for taking such a radical step is that he shares the view of Planned Parenthood that votes of those not casting a ballot in the governor's race were more heavily weighted and favored than those of pro-abortion voters who opposed Amendment 1. This, they claim, violates 14th Amendment protections for due process and equal protection.
Judge Sharp has directed state officials including Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins to provide a timetable for a statewide recount of the ballots.Read more
April 21, 2016, Nashville---Pro-life voters were handed a victory late Thursday as a state court judge ruled in favor of a motion for summary judgment brought by Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. Hargett and Goins sought clarification from the court as to whether or not the process for counting votes and ratification of a voter-approved amendment were in violation of the Tennessee Constitution. Judge Michael Binkley ruled in favor of the state's process and dismissed pro-abortion claims that the process favored pro-life supporters of Amendment 1 while violating the rights of voters opposed to the pro-life amendment.
In response, the state's leading pro-life organization issued the following: "Tennessee Right to Life shares the view that the historic method of counting the votes and ratifying the results on Amendment 1 was followed in the exact way as every other amendment approved by the voters of our state," said Brian Harris, president of the organization. "Planned Parenthood is trying to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of pro-life Tennesseans simply because they dislike the outcome of the election. That's neither right nor fair," said Harris.Read more
Leaders of Yes on 1 Ballot Committee and Tennessee Right to Life were among those present Tuesday morning in federal district court to hear arguments in the pro-abortion lawsuit brought against Amendment 1. The suit was filed on November 7, 2014, three days following public approval, by Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee Board Chair, Tracey George. Before proceedings began, George was invited by pro-abortion counsel William Harbison to join him at the counsel table. Also in the courtroom was Mark Goins, state Coordinator of Elections, who is named as a defendant by the lawsuit.Read more
On Tuesday, April 5 at 9:30 am (cdt), the trial begins. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood activists will argue that the state's long-established process for counting votes and ratifying amendments to the state constitution somehow violated the rights of pro-abortion voters who opposed pro-life Amendment 1.
Unable to win at the ballot box on November 4, 2014, Planned Parenthood Board Chair Tracey George waited just 3 days before filing her legal challenge to overturn the outcome of the election. They claim violation of federal rights, disenfranchisement, and a "fundamentally unfair" system. And, most critically, the pro-abortion activists demand that Amendment 1---and the votes of pro-life Tennesseans---be thrown out.
Your prayers are needed now to defend the hard-won victory on Amendment 1 and to protect Tennessee's abortion-vulnerable women, girls, and unborn children.Read more
Tracey E. George et al v. Haslam et al
November 7, 2014: Planned Parenthood board chair, Tracey E. George and other Planned Parenthood board members file a federal lawsuit claiming that voter rights were violated and that ballots were not accurately counted in the November 4, 2014 election. The suit asks for a recount of the votes or to nullify the results.
Yes on 1 responded and called the lawsuit one more example of pro-abortion activists refusing to trust the "common sense and compassion" of Tennesseans who voted to approve Amendment 1 on November 4.
"Amendment 1 was passed with a decisive majority of Tennesseans casting a vote to approve the language," said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life and a coordinator for Yes on 1. "Even if you wrongly discount those who may have voted for Amendment 1 but not in the Governor's race, there is still a margin of almost 20,000 votes in favor of the amendment."Read more