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VOL. 44 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 16, 2020

Court keeps Tennessee 1st-time voter change pending appeal

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NASHVILLE (AP) — First-time voters in Tennessee won't have to appear in person to vote while a court appeal proceeds, as the Oct. 27 deadline to request an absentee ballot approaches.

In a 3-0 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Monday declined the state's request to reinstate the in-person requirement while the court mulls the case.

The decision maintains a lower court's order last month.

The blocked law requires first-time voters to cast a ballot in person or show ID at the local election office before voting by mail, if they qualify.

Instead, officials are requiring certain first-time voters to submit a copy of their ID during the absentee voting process.

In Monday's opinion, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons said "disrupting the new rules at this point poses significant risk of harm to the public interest in orderly elections."

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the ruling, coupled with expanded eligibility, means "thousands of first-time voters should not be forced to risk their health in order to vote."

Amid another court challenge, the state has said voters more susceptible to COVID-19 and their caretakers and housemates are eligible to vote by mail under Tennessee's excuse-requiring absentee system.

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