Ballot Secrecy Protected

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
October 5, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU of Tennessee Successfully Protects Voters from Being Forced to Reveal Votes


NASHVILLE — In a case that reinforced the importance of ballot secrecy, a Davidson County chancellor upheld a protective order filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) to protect voters from being required to reveal how they voted in a recent local election. The case settled late yesterday.

“Democracy cannot survive without secrecy of the ballot—it is crucial to protect against undue influence and manipulation when casting a vote and against retaliation for how one voted,” said Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN Staff Attorney. “This case safeguarded the integrity of the election process.”

ACLU-TN filed the motion for protective order on September 20 after being contacted by multiple voters in the August election that dissolved the City of Lakewood’s charter. In a lawsuit contesting the one-vote margin in the election, the City of Lakewood subpoenaed these voters as witnesses and tried to force them to disclose how they voted on the ballot measure. ACLU-TN’s role in the case was limited to filing the protective order that prevented plaintiffs from forcing these voters to disclose the substance of their votes during the course of the trial and ensuring that the order was enforced.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney Paul Ambrosius of Trauger & Tuke. “By protecting ballot secrecy, this case championed the fundamental right to vote not only for these particular witnesses, but for all Tennesseans.”

Late yesterday the case settled, with all parties agreeing to hold a new election. ACLU-TN’s protective order was enforced throughout the trial and the secrecy of ACLU-TN’s clients’ ballots was preserved.

ACLU-TN has long been dedicated to protecting the fundamental right to vote, including secrecy of the ballot. For more information on ACLU-TN’s voting rights work, please visit

The lawsuit, City of Lakewood, et al. v. The Davidson County Election Commission, et al., was heard in Davidson County Chancery Court by Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman.

A copy of ACLU-TN’s motion for protective order and supporting brief can be found here:

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