Memphis A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Hargett, No. 20-6046 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Tennessee voters must apply to vote absentee. The county administrator of elections determines whether the voter has established eligibility to vote absentee, and compares the signature of the voter on the request with the signature on the voter’s registration record. Voters who qualify to vote absentee receive a ballot, an inner envelope and an outer envelope, and instructions. The inner envelope has an affidavit; the voter must verify that he is eligible to vote in the election. The ballot must be received no later than when the polls close. Upon receipt by mail of the absentee ballot, the administrator "shall open only the outer envelope and compare the voter’s signature on the [affidavit] with the voter’s signature" on the registration record. If the administrator determines the signatures do not match, the ballot is rejected; the voter is “immediately” notified in writing. Voters who are concerned that their absentee ballot might be rejected may cast a provisional ballot before being notified of a rejection.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction to prohibit the enforcement of the signature verification procedures. The plaintiffs cannot cite with certainty or specification any past erroneous rejection of an absentee ballot; their speculative allegations of harm are insufficient to establish standing. The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that anyone whose ballot may be erroneously rejected will ultimately be unable to vote, either absentee or by provisional ballot; there is no evidence that anyone’s constitutional rights are likely to be infringed.