U.S. judge orders recount in Tennessee abortion vote

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2016 9:19 PM

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday ordered a recount of Tennessee's 2014 ballot measure that removed the right to an abortion from the state's constitution.

Chief District Judge Kevin Sharp called the procedure by which the state counted votes for the measure, Amendment 1, "fundamentally unfair." He said it violated equal protection and due process rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

"As a remedy, the Court will order a recount of the 2014 Election solely in relation to Amendment 1, but defer ruling on the question of whether the election on Amendment 1 should be voided," Sharp wrote in a 52-page decision.

Amendment 1 was approved by 53 percent of the vote after one of the most costly election campaigns in Tennessee history.

Approval cleared the way for Republican Governor Bill Haslam to sign into law bills setting a 48-hour abortion waiting period and requiring clinics performing 50 or more abortions a year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

Eight voters, including Tennessee Planned Parenthood board members, filed the federal lawsuit a few days after the election.

Sharp said that the 2014 vote was not done in accordance with an article of the state constitution that factors in the number of votes cast for governor in determining whether an amendment has been approved.

Votes against Amendment 1 were not given the same weight as those in favor of it, he wrote.

Sharp's ruling came a day after a judge in Tennessee's Williamson County Circuit Court found that the state had followed proper vote-counting procedures for Amendment 1.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernard Orr)