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.
Pro-abortion lawyers representing local Planned Parenthood Board Chair Tracey George argued that efforts by some pro-life advocates to encourage an under-vote in the governor's race in order to favor passage of Amendment 1 had violated the constitutional manner for amending the constitution. They further claim that the ballots of those not having cast a vote in the governor's race but voting on the amendment should be thrown out or, alternately, that the outcome of Amendment 1 be voided.
Writing in the conclusion to his ruling, Judge Binkley stated clearly "Article XI, Section 3, (of the Tennessee Constitution) does not restrict or precondition the right of a citizen to vote for or against a constitutional amendment upon that citizen voting in the gubernatorial election."
Neither Tennessee Right to Life nor the YES on 1 campaign encouraged or promoted such an under-vote as a means of passing Amendment 1.
The case is now likely to be appealed by pro-abortion activists to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. A separate lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood's Tracey George remains in federal court with a decision there by Chief Judge Kevin Sharp still pending. It is unclear what effect the state court's ruling may have on the outcome of the federal case but one possibility is that all voter-approved amendments will be challenged or struck down as a result of the pro-abortion lawsuit against Amendment 1.