NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Democratic officials improperly filed a public records request while seeking last-minute information on voters who have requested an absentee ballot but haven’t returned them yet, a Tennessee judge ruled Monday.
Tennessee’s Democratic Party and the campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw had filed a lawsuit over the weekend accusing state election officials of refusing to release the ballot information as required by state law.
However, Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal in her eight-page ruling found that there was not enough evidence that Democratic officials sent a proper public records requests to the state’s elections office - where Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, and elections coordinator Mark Goins were named as defendants.
Furthermore, Moskal ruled that the state likely didn’t have the information the Democrats sought.
“There is nothing in the record to demonstrate that the speciﬁc voter information requested - regarding absentee voters’ requests for ballots who have not yet submitted their ballots - is compiled by county election commissions and transmitted to the (state’s) Division of Elections,” the judge wrote.
According to lawsuit, the Democrats had alleged that the Secretary of State’s office instructed all 95 county election offices withhold information about voters who have not returned absentee ballots by the end of early voting - which ended last week.
During a Monday hearing, Bradshaw’s campaign conceded they hadn’t requested information from all 95 counties. Instead, they reached out to just five counties: Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Madison and Washington. Knox County was the only one to hand over information.
“As the record showed today in court the lawsuit was based on falsehoods,” said Julia Bruck, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, in a statement. “We did not receive a public records request for the information. We did not deny a public records request. We did not tell counties to deny a public records request.”
Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty in Tuesday’s election for the seat left open by retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Ken Taylor, Bradshaw’s campaign manager, said he was encouraged by the judge’s ruling that such information was indeed public and added that they planned on resending proper public records requests to the local counties.
“We’re essentially seeking that information again,” Taylor said. “Now that we have the ruling, we can say that we are entitled to that information.”
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