Johnson / Casada

State Sen. Jack Johnson (left) and State Rep. Glen Casada (right).

Last week, Nashville Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the state of Tennessee must allow universal mail-in ballots for the upcoming 2020 election, with the justification being safety concerns stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In response, State Sen. Jack Johnson and State Rep. Glen Casada, both of whom represent Williamson County in the Tennessee General Assembly, have both denounced the decision, arguing that the current options for mail-in ballots are sufficient enough to keep Tennesseans safe.

On Monday, the state of Tennessee appealed Lyle’s decision, with Attorney General Herbert Slatery writing in the appeal that the costs of implementing a universal mail-in ballot system would be “immense.”

Johnson voiced his support of Slatery’s position on universal mail-in ballots, arguing that the court had “went beyond their bounds” in its decision.

“I agree with General Slatery that the court went beyond their bounds to replace legislation enacted by the people’s elected representatives to replace it with its own judgement,” Johnson said in a statement.

“State law currently provides absentee by-mail ballots for 14 categories of voters, including citizens 60 years of age or older and those who are hospitalized, ill, physically disabled or have a physician statement stating the voter is medically unable to vote in person. This takes care of the vast majority of our vulnerable voters.”

Furthermore, Johnson argued that the safety precautions planned to be practiced by poll workers in the upcoming election were more than adequate in eliminating the health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“State election officials have issued detailed guidance to help ensure all voters are safe utilizing Centers for Disease Control and other health guidelines,” Johnson continued. 

“A lot of these guidelines apply the public safety lessons already learned to mitigate spread of the disease like putting tape on the floors to keep voters six feet apart, plexiglass shields of the sort we are now seeing in grocery stores, surgical gloves, masks, placing voting machines within social distancing guidelines, and sanitizers at our polling places. Other measures include cleaning machines between voters and providing sanitized equipment, like the pens used to sign the poll book.”

Casada mirrored Johnson’s sentiments, arguing that the current qualifiers for mail-in ballots were sufficient, but also expressed concerns of “fraud and abuse” that voting by mail could pose.

“Voting by mail has many technical pitfalls and is open to fraud and abuse,” Casada wrote in a message to the Home Page. “Until these technicalities can be worked out, universal voting by mail should not be an option.”