Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett cited an alleged instance of a voter registration form being mailed to a cat in Georgia as rationale for Tennessee’s continuing emphasis on in-person voting during a Wednesday hearing of the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
Among other instances of alleged voter fraud by mail Hargett cited were the episode of a Tennessee woman who died but whose absentee ballot was later returned filled out.
“We know the safest and most private way to vote is in person,” said Hargett addressing the committee.
“I hope you will continue to respect each state’s authority to conduct elections in a manner that has or will work with every respective state,” he said. “One size does not fit all. Tennesseans like to vote in person and we’ve built our infrastructure around our voters’ habits of voting in person.”
“Any time Tennessee can be part of a national conversation about election preparations, that’s a good thing. And we heard today that many voters at our state’s Early Vote locations reported having a positive experience, which is a testament to our hardworking local election officials,” said Shanna Singh Hughey, president of ThinkTennessee.
“Our concern is for those voters who don’t feel comfortable casting their ballots in person, who could lose their ability to vote absentee this year if the State’s court appeal is successful. In the state that last presidential election ranked #49 for voter turnout, we believe all registered voters should have the opportunity to cast their ballots without risking their health,” she continued.
ThinkTennessee is a nonpartisan think tank based in Nashville that has published extensive research on absentee voting.
State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, responded to Hargett’s testimony.
“It’s wrong for him to lobby the legislature to enact some of the most restrictive voting laws in the U.S. only to hide behind the legislature when testifying,” said Yarbro. “He should own up to his decisions. His office drafted the restrictive registration which was overturned. His office led the court fight against absentee voting in the time of a pandemic.”
According to an April Wall Street Journal poll of 900 registered voters nationally, nearly 67% of registered voters support having a choice of in-person or absentee voting.
On June 4, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled all eligible Tennessee voters can have the option to vote by absentee ballot in both the August and November elections. On June 25, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the state’s bid to upend the Chancery Court’s ruling.
A full text of Hargett’s testimony can be found here.