A judge in Tennessee’s second-largest county extended voting hours on Super Tuesday after four Democratic presidential candidates sued to keep polls open later in the wake of a series of devastating tornadoes that tore through the state overnight.
A Davidson County Chancery Court judge ruled that polling locations in the county whose seat is Nashville must remain open until 8 p.m. Central time. Five so-called megasites, where anyone in the tornado-hit county can go to vote, will be open until 10 p.m. under the judge's ruling, Tennessee Democratic Party spokeswoman Emily Cupples said.
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. — 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 early-morning voters were not able to cast ballots either.
Lines were long at locations that were unprepared for additional voters and people left without casting their ballots, Cupples said.
“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.
At least 25 people were killed in the Volunteer State after tornadoes ripped across in the hours after midnight on Tuesday morning.
The governor declared an emergency and sent the National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts. An unspecified number of people were missing.
President Trump spoke with the governor by phone and pledged federal assistance, the White House said. Trump also announced plans to visit the disaster area on Friday.
Early findings by National Weather Service survey teams indicated that the damage in Nashville and Wilson County to the east was inflicted by a tornado of at least EF-3 intensity, the agency said.
One twister wrecked homes and businesses across a 10-mile stretch of Nashville that included parts of downtown. It smashed more than three dozen buildings, including destroying the tower and stained glass of a historic church. Another tornado damaged more than 100 structures along a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) path of destruction in Putnam County, wiping some homes from their foundations and depositing the wreckage far away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.