Following a Tennessee circuit court’s decision to uphold the state’s 2014 amendment declaring the state Constitution did not contain a right to abortion, US District Court Judge Kevin Sharp has ordered the state to conduct a recount of the amendment vote, which state officials are resisting.
The original challenge to the amendment was based on claims that only voters who voted in the gubernatorial race can be counted toward ratifying constitutional amendments. Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley had rejected that argument, ruling that “the right of a citizen to vote for or against a constitutional amendment” did not depend “upon that citizen also voting in a gubernatorial election.”
But Sharp decided otherwise, ruling the count was unfair to amendment opponents and ordering a recount that only counts votes on the amendment from people who also voted in the governor’s race.
The state has argued such interpretations are groundless, as Amendment 1 was ratified on the same criteria on which amendments have been ratified for the past century. Now the state Attorney General’s office has announced it will appeal the decision, with a spokesman explaining, “deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee court.”
State Senator Randy McNally, who is also a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, blasted Sharp’s ruling as “plac[ing] Tennessee’s entire constitutional amendment process in jeopardy.”
Judge Sharp is the very same who issued an injunction against the enforcement of a Tennessee law last August, which would require abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and abortionists to obtain hospital admitting privileges.