Amendment 1 Opponents File US Court Complaint Over State’s Vote Counting Method

Press release from Tracey George-Lead Plaintiff, Bill Harbison-Lead Counsel; November 10, 2014:

November 10, 2014 — On Friday, a complaint was filed with the United District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee alleging that the state’s method of counting votes on Amendment 1 for the 2014 election violated the voters’ rights by not accurately counting those ballots in compliance with Tennessee’s constitution. The complaint was filed on behalf of plaintiffs from across the state whose votes were not appropriately counted in this election.

In Article XI, Section 3, the Tennessee Constitution states:

Any amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in the Senate or House of Representatives, and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals with the yeas and nays thereon, and referred to the General Assembly then next to be chosen; and shall be published six months previous to the time of making such choice; and if in the General Assembly then next chosen as aforesaid, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to by two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to submit such proposed amendment or amendments to the people at the next general election in which a governor is to be chosen. And if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in their favor, such amendment or amendments shall become a part of this Constitution. Tenn. Const. Art. XI, § 3 (emphasis added).

This section requires that an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution be ratified only when a majority of the qualified voters who voted for governor also vote in favor of the amendment. In spite of Article XI, Section 3, the votes on Amendment 1 were tabulated by examining whether the number of total votes in favor of Amendment 1 would constitute a majority of the total number of votes cast in the gubernatorial race.

“The method of calculation used by the state subjects Tennessee voters who complied with Article XI, Section 3’s mandate to a coordination scheme that is strictly prohibited by the text of Tennessee’s Constitution,” said Bill Harbison, Counsel for the Plaintiffs. “In this misguided scheme, voters in favor of Amendment 1 intentionally voted for Amendment 1 while declining to participate in the governor’s race. The apparent intent was to add “yes” votes without increasing the number of votes needed to achieve a majority in the governor’s race. Supporters of Amendment 1 have been promulgating this scheme.”

Tracey George, lead Plaintiff said, “I and my fellow plaintiffs, who represent voters from all across the state, are filing this complaint because we want to ensure that all voters are treated fairly and equally when casting their ballots. No one vote or voter should get an unfair advantage over another.”

As relief for the harm they suffered due to unconstitutional method of tabulating votes on Amendment 1, Plaintiff’s are requesting the following:

  • That the court require the state to tabulate the votes in favor of Amendment 1 based only on the voters who both voted for governor and voted in favor of Amendment 1. That number must be at least a majority of those voting in the governor’s race in order for Amendment 1 to pass.
  • That the court enjoin the state from certifying the vote on Amendment 1 until they have complied with the Article XI, Section 3’s counting requirements;
  • That if the state is unable to comply with the tabulation parameters of Article XI, Section 3, the state be required to declare that the November 4, 2014 vote on Amendment 1 is void.

For a copy of the full complaint please click here.