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Election Law @ Moritz Home Page

Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz

2008 Key Questions for Key States


The complete research by Election Law @ Moritz for Tennessee can be found below.

Institutional Arrangements

State Chief Election Authorities

Democratic appointee

Chief election authority: Coordinator of elections. § 2-11-202. Tennessee also has a State Election Commission that appoints county election commissioners and monitors their performance.

Method of selection: Appointed by Secretary of State. § 2-11-202. Serves at pleasure of Secretary. The Secretary is appointed by a joint vote of the state legislature. Const. Art. 3, § 17. The State Election Commission is composed of five members, three from the majority party and two from the other leading party. § 2-11-103.

Current officer: Brook Thompson. Report: paper trail needed for election, AP Alert – Political, December 24, 2007. Appointed by Riley Darnell (D). By turning tables, GOP is putting itself at the head, Memphis Commercial Appeal, November 7, 2000. (Last updated 1/1/08)

State High Court Composition

R leaning/elected

Method of selection: Elected. Const. Art. 6, § 3. Unexpired terms are filled by gubernatorial appointment. T.C.A. §§ 17-4-102, 17-4-112.

Justices: William M. Barker (R), Gary R. Wade (appointed by D), Janice M. Holder (R), Cornelia A. Clark (appointed by D), William C. Koch, Jr. (R) (Last updated 12/22/07)


  • Special interest money flows into Berke, Brock contest, Chattanooga Times, November 13, 2007.
  • State justices interview attorney general candidates, AP Alert – Political, October 12, 2006.
  • GOP women get party update, Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 23, 2005.
  • Bredesen appoints William Koch as new Supreme Court justice, AP Alert – Tennessee, June 15, 2007, TN 18:00:12.

Voter Registration

EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee


EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee

Provisional Ballots

EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee

Early and Absentee Voting

EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee

Voting Technology

EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee

Polling Place Operations

Polling hours extension


Tennessee polls must be open for 10 hours but no more than 13 hours. Polls must close at 8:00 p.m. eastern time or 7 p.m. central time. Counties above a certain population must open by 8 a.m. prevailing time and may open earlier if county officials wish. T. C. A. § 2-3-201. No information was found regarding extension of polling hours. Extension of hours was sought in 2008 but was denied.

"At the time set for the closing of the polling place, the officer of elections shall place one (1) of the election officials at the end of the line of persons waiting to vote. No other person may then get in line to vote." T. C. A. § 2-7-127.


Polling place closing times - local times

7:00 PM local time

Polling place closing times - by Eastern time zone

8:00 PM Eastern time

Ballot Security

EL@M did not research this topic for Tennessee

Emergency Preparedness

What if touchscreens break down?

Tennessee requires that voting machines must be replaced or repaired if it breaks down during an election.  TCA 2-7-119(a).  Paper ballots will be used if the voting machines cannot be replaced/repaired. TCA 2-7-119(b). If the voting machine breaks down while it is being used, the marks shall be cleared, and the voter may then vote on another machine or by paper ballot, as the election judges decide. TCA  2-7-119(c).

Updated 11/4/08

Post-Election Processes

Election Contest Scenario #1: Unverified Ballots


Voters must sign ballot applications before voting, but no information was found regarding whether failure to do so makes the resulting ballots ineligible to be counted. § 2-7-112. If unverified ballots are ineligible to be counted but are commingled with eligible ballots and cannot be separated, courts may reduce the vote totals of each candidate in proportion to the vote they received in the affected precinct. Morrison v. Buttram, 290 S.W. 399, 401 (Tenn., 1926).

Election Contest Scenario #2: Provisional Ballots with Technical Mistakes


Provisional voters must fill out an affidavit that contains the voter’s name, social security number, date of birth, signature “and any other identifying information deemed necessary by the coordinator of elections to satisfy the requirements of this section and to prevent fraudulent registration and voting.” § 2-7-112. The statute says that provisional ballots will be counted if, after consulting various records, election officials determine that the voter is registered, entitled to vote in the precinct, and has not already cast a ballot in the election. Id. Neither the statutes nor cases give any guidance on the issue of whether small mistakes in filling out the affidavit would invalidate the connected ballot.

What Court Would Hear a Presidential Contest?


Contests of presidential and vice presidential electors are decided by the presidential electors tribunal composed of the governor, secretary of state, attorney general. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-17-103. The governor is elected. TN Const. Art. 3, § 2. The Secretary of State is appointed by the state legislature. TN Const. Art. 3, § 17. The attorney general is appointed by the Supreme Court. TN Const. Art 6, § 5. Contests of the primaries are made to the state primary board of the candidate's party. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-17-104.

Who Performs Presidential recounts?

Court-ordered recounts only/unconstrained

Tennessee does not have recounts outside of election contests. Tennessee does authorize recounts to occur as part of an election contest, but does not specify who shall conduct these recounts. 2-17-117. However, according to Cara E. Harr, a HAVA/Elections Attorney at the Tennessee Division of Elections, the court determines who shall conduct the recount. Tennessee statutes authorize election contests for President and Presidential nominations. 2-17-101; 2-17-104.