Fiona Prine Campaigns for Absentee Voting During COVID Pandemic - Rolling Stone
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Fiona Prine Campaigns for Absentee Voting in Tennessee, Says System Is ‘Failing Us’

Widow of John Prine, the songwriting icon who died after contracting COVID-19, testified before lawmakers this week

Fiona Whelan Prine, John Prine

Fiona Whelan Prine, the widow of songwriter John Prine, is advocating in support of absentee voting during the pandemic.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutt

Update (6/5): A Nashville judge has ruled that Tennessee must provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mail-in ballot. “In this time of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and its contagion in gatherings of people, almost all states – both Republican and Democrat – are providing their citizens the health protection of a voting by mail option,” Davidson County chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle wrote. Fiona Prine, who has been advocating for absentee voting, tweeted that the judge’s decision is a “great step forward. Thank you to the courts for upholding our right to vote safely.”

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Fiona Whelan Prine, the widow of songwriter John Prine who died in April from complications related to COVID-19, testified before Tennessee lawmakers on Tuesday in support of an amendment that would give all voters in the state the option to vote by absentee ballot. The amendment was voted down, and Prine, who is advocating for absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic, has issued a statement calling it, in part, “disturbing when our representatives, Secretary of State and Governor, do not listen to us when we say we’re fearful for our health.”

“We’re certainly not asking for much,” she continued. “All we’re asking for is an opportunity to apply for an absentee ballot based on the fear of contracting COVID-19 at the polls this November — the same opportunity that 45 other states have already granted their citizens. Without a vaccine, this deadly virus is not contained, and Tennesseans should not have to fear for their lives simply to exercise their constitutional right to vote. This is yet another example of the ‘system’ failing us.”

Prine also voiced her support for protesters of police brutality who are putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus by marching and rallying. The disease is disproportionately killing African-Americans.

“If you’ve been outraged this week as to how we’ve treated Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) who are at a higher risk for COVID-19 and disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to voting, now is the time to take action,” she said, suggesting concerned citizens sign a petition, call or email their state representatives, and register to vote.

“As I reminded lawmakers earlier this week, this is NOT a partisan issue. The virus doesn’t care about politics. This is a serious health concern and we must fight to make our voices heard,” Prine said.

Here’s Prine’s full statement:

As many of you know, I appeared on Tuesday before TN lawmakers, urging them to give all voters the option to vote by absentee ballot during the pandemic. After describing my personal experience with this deadly virus, and having watched my husband die from it, I remained hopeful that lawmakers would advance this bill out of committee.

Soon after I was finished speaking, the Committee went into recess because some members wanted to hear from Secretary of State Tre Hargett. They reconvened with no warning an hour later – and without Secretary Hargett – and promptly voted down the amendment.

Thank you to Senator Steve Dickerson and Senator Jeff Yarbro for voting ‘yes’ to advance the amendment. I am gravely disappointed in the members of the committee who voted against the safety of all Tennesseans. It’s disturbing when our representatives, Secretary of State and Governor, do not listen to us when we say we’re fearful for our health.

We’re certainly not asking for much. All we’re asking for is an opportunity to apply for an absentee ballot based on the fear of contracting COVID-19 at the polls this November – the same opportunity that 45 other states have already granted their citizens. Without a vaccine, this deadly virus is not contained, and Tennesseans should not have to fear for their lives simply to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

This is yet another example of the ‘system’ failing us.

With so much outrage and grief in America today, many of us feel helpless as to how we can make a difference. How do we even begin to correct a system that turns a blind eye to the vulnerable in a time of crisis?

If you’ve been outraged this week as to how we’ve treated Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) who are at a higher risk for COVID-19 and disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to voting, now is the time to take action.

The TN General Assembly is in session for a very limited time – we must act now and put pressure on Governor Bill Lee and our representatives to ensure everyone’s safety at the polls.

Here’s how:

· Sign the petition here.

· Call or email your State representatives. Find your legislators here.

· Register to vote, stay informed and vote!

And as I reminded lawmakers earlier this week, this is NOT a partisan issue. The virus doesn’t care about politics. This is a serious health concern and we must fight to make our voices heard.

Thank you,

Fiona Prine

In This Article: coronavirus, covid-19, John Prine

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