Tenn. RVers Still in Limbo Over Voting Rights
Tennessee election officials who canceled voter registrations of 286 retirees who travel full-time in recreational vehicles asked a judge to dismiss an emergency request that would allow three of the retirees to vote in the Feb. 5 presidential primaries.
The Associated Press reported that Tricia Herzfeld, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney in Tennessee for the three retirees, said she remains hopeful that a federal judge will grant the request before the presidential voting.
No hearing dates are set on the emergency request or a related November lawsuit that contends the state is violating the plaintiffs’ rights to vote and travel.
While Monday (Jan. 7) was a deadline for new voters to register and qualify for Tennessee’s presidential primaries, Herzfeld and state attorney Janet Kleinfelter said that deadline does not have to apply to the emergency request of the three RVers. They are plaintiffs in the suit pending before U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier.
“Their voter registration cards have not been destroyed,” Kleinfelter said. “If the court orders us to register them, all we have to do is reinstate those registrations.”
The lawsuit said the RVers had registered in Bradley County using the street address and box number of a business that forwards their mail. In many cases they also obtained driver’s licenses and registered vehicles in the state.
If the court grants the requested preliminary injunction, California retirees Ronald Teel and his wife, Leone, and retired Washington, D.C., police officer John Thomas Layton, will be allowed to vote on Feb. 5.
“It’s an awkward situation,” Teel said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “We did vote in 2004, and we did that in person and it went very smooth.”
Teel said the couple chose Tennessee for residency for several reasons, including its convenient proximity to relatives in Kentucky, Ohio and New York as well as lower fees for registering their RV and no income tax. He said relocating their residency to Tennessee saved “about $300 a month out of my pocket.”
Teel, 71, said he and his wife have traveled full time in their motorhome since 2000 and after being registered to vote in Tennessee and no longer owning property in California they can’t return there to vote.
He said some others among the 286 have returned to home states to register to vote, in some instances providing false information about residency. Others are just not voting.
“If the court never rules, I guess we don’t vote,” Teel said. “We would be disappointed.”