CHATTANOOGA, TN — UPDATE: Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent a letter to Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett asking his office to allow voters wrongfully purged from voter rolls due to inactivity to cast provisional ballots.
The letter states, in part:
Federal law is clear: Voters cannot be removed from the rolls simply because they haven’t voted in a few elections,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “The state must now act quickly to do damage control and notify those voters whom they wrongly purged that they can still cast a provisional ballot. If the State Election Commission is truly committed to ensuring access to the ballot box for Tennessee voters, it should make certain those unfairly purged can vote in this election
ORIGINAL: Less than two weeks from the Presidential Election, questions linger about the fairness of the process itself.
Some of those questions hit close to home.
One issue surrounds voters who think they are registered, but find out way too late, that they're not.
Now, here in Hamilton County, a story emerges about a man ready to cast his ballot, but told no.
"I think every American should be allowed to vote, especially those of us that are veterans," said veteran Greg McMasters.
Greg Masters served in Vietnam.
Wednesday, he tried to serve his country again by participating in the election.
"I said what do you mean, purged and he said you were no longer in the system because you were purged in 2012 since you hadn't voted since 2004," said McMasters.
But Tennessee law is clear.
A voter's name is purged if he or she fails to vote in two consecutive November elections.
"It's a super slap in the face because I, above all people should be allowed to vote. When I went into the service at age 17, I wasn't old enough to vote but I was old enough to fight for my country," said McMasters.
The Tennessee League of Women Voters agrees with McMasters.
The non-profit cites a federal ruling from appeals court in Ohio that says purging inactive voters is unconstitutional & a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.
"Purging people simply for not voting is against that act and it's important to remove all the barriers that we can for people voting," said Marian Ott with the TN League of Women Voters.
Ott sent a letter to the Tennessee Secretary of State, challenging the state law.
"We don't need to do things to discourage people from voting," said Ott.
Ott has no problem with removing dead people or those who move away, but draws the line at denying the vote to people who simply haven't voted recently.
"Now that I'm a veteran, and served my country, I'm not allowed to vote. How screwed up, ironic is that,"said McMasters.
Ott says the Secretary of State's office is reviewing the Ohio decision, even as early voting proceeds.
So NewsChannel 9 called Secretary Tre Hargett's office and got that confirmed, but officials would not comment further.
The League of Women Voters does have some advice in this uncertain situation.
They say you should ask for a provisional ballot.
At least that way, your vote will count if Tennessee changes the law this year.