MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A judge has extended voting hours in a Nashville-area county after four Democratic presidential candidates sued to keep Super Tuesday polls open after tornado damage there, a Democratic party spokeswoman said Tuesday.
A Davidson County Chancery Court judge ruled that polling locations in the county whose seat is Nashville must remain open until 8 p.m. CST.Two so-called megasites, where anyone in the tornado-hit county can go to vote, will be open until 10 p.m. local time under the judge's ruling, Tennessee Democratic Party spokeswoman Emily Cupples said.
The county is Tennessee's second-largest.
Tennessee Democrats and campaigns for Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had sued to extend the hours. Voting locations in Davidson County had opened an hour later — at 8 a.m. local time — after an early morning tornado damaged more than a dozen polling places and voters were advised to go to other locations to cast ballots.
Cupples said some voters showed up at 7 a.m., but their polling locations were not open and they had to leave without being able to vote. Also, some locations opened after 8 a.m. because of storm damage, and those voters were not able to cast ballots either.
Lines were long at some locations that were unprepared for additional voters and people left without casting their ballots, Cupples added.
“This is a victory for all voters and this decision will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in this historic election," said Mary Mancini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, in a statement.
The extension of voting hours means election results may not be reported until early Wednesday morning, Davidson County Administrator of Elections Jeff Roberts said.
With the extended hours, some 1,500 poll workers who had been counting on going home after polls closed at 7 p.m. will be working much later. Roberts said the average age of poll workers in the county is 66 years old.
“Some of those folks are going to feel a little uncomfortable being out in unfamiliar neighborhoods at that late hour, but we recognize it's important to make sure everyone has an opportunity to vote,” Roberts said.
Poll officers taking voting totals from individual precincts to the central office where the votes will be counted are going to have to use caution as they navigate closed streets, Roberts said.
Tornadoes ripped across downtown Nashville and other parts of Tennessee as families slept early Tuesday, shredding more than 140 buildings and burying people in piles of rubble and wrecked basements. More than 20 people were killed, some in their beds, authorities said.