Vote Counting For Tennessee Abortion Measure Argued In Federal Court

Posted at 8:59 PM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 22:07:10-04

It started as a debate on one of Tennessee's most controversial topics -- abortion rights -- but it could end up all the way at the Supreme Court, and along the way, it could trigger a statewide Constitutional crisis.

On Wednesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from the state, saying its way of counting Amendment 1 votes was right, and that 52 percent of Tennessee voters approved the abortion measure in 2014.

Eight voters, opposing the state, disagree.

For a constitutional amendment to be adopted in Tennessee, it takes more than a simple majority.  Specifically, it takes a "...majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in...favor."

The disagreement surrounds that wording.

The state says it means, for example, if one million people voted for governor, it takes 500,001 votes for the amendment to win.

But other groups say the phrase means something different.

The eight voters are arguing that a vote for or against the amendment only counts if that same person voted in the governors race.  If they didn't vote in that race, the amendment vote doesn't count.

NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan says if the final ruling shows that Tennessee's way of counting the votes was unconstitutional, and if the new way changes the outcome of Amendment 1, it could throw the legality of several abortion-related laws passed in the last two years into question.

"I think there will be an effort to challenge the laws the legislature has passed, and i think one of those is the waiting period for abortion, there have been a couple others," Nolan said.

Whatever the ruling, either side will have the option to challenge it to the U.S. Supreme Court.