All four Tennessee constitutional amendments clear bar for passage

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 09, 2022 5:52 AM CT | Published: November 08, 2022 10:48 PM CT
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All four proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution appeared to win passage Tuesday, Nov. 8, in statewide results.

In order to become part of the state’s constitution, each proposed amendment has to win with a majority of the total number of votes cast in the race for Tennessee governor.

By unofficial and incomplete statewide returns, that comes to a little more than a 700,000-vote threshold for passage.

In Shelby County returns, the closest contest was Amendment 1, which made the state’s “right to work” law part of the Constitution.

Understanding Tennessee’s proposed ‘right to work’ constitutional amendment

The amendment was at the center of hard-fought campaigns statewide for and against the enshrinement of the law in the constitution.

The largest margin locally was in passage of Amendment 3 that abolishes all language in the state constitution legalizing slavery.

Statewide, Amendment 4 — that barred ministers and religious leaders from holding office in the Tennessee Legislature — was the closest contest.

Here is a summary of each amendment and incomplete statewide vote totals as of about 10:30 p.m., followed by the incomplete countywide totals with more than half of the county’s 142 precincts reporting.

Amendment 1: This would make the state’s current “right to work” law part of the Tennessee Constitution. It makes it illegal to deny a worker a job if they choose not to join a labor union. This is the most hotly contested of the four amendments and interpretations of what the wording would do and the effect it would have differ greatly.

Opinion: Vote yes on Amendment 1 to protect the rights of workers

Statewide unofficial totals: 

Yes: 1,070,666

No: 460,932

Shelby County unofficial totals:

Yes: 110,388

No: 63,124

Amendment 2: The amendment with the longest block of text on the ballot is among the least controversial but still has a high capacity to confuse.

The speaker of the Tennessee House comes after the lieutenant governor and speaker of the Senate — which are one and the same — in the line of succession to become governor if the governor leaves office or is temporarily incapacitated.

Understanding Tennessee’s proposed ‘right to work’ constitutional amendment

The amendment allows the House speaker to keep that office and his or her district seat while serving as governor. But they cannot vote or use any of their legislative powers while serving as governor.

If the speaker becomes governor, he or she does not get the pay raise that comes with being governor. They serve as acting governor at the pay they get for being speaker of the House.

Statewide unofficial totals: 

Yes: 1,105,538 

 No: 375,146 

Shelby County unofficial totals:

Yes: 135,563

No: 43,007

Amendment 3: This amendment would abolish all language in the state constitution legalizing slavery. That includes doing away with wording that allows slavery or involuntary servitude for work done by inmates following their conviction for a crime.

Statewide unofficial totals: 

Yes: 1,215,081 

No: 313,880 

Shelby County unofficial totals:

Yes: 147,263

No: 33,224

Amendment 4: If approved, this amendment would strike wording in the Tennessee Constitution that forbids “ministers of the gospel and priests of any denomination from holding a seat” in the state House or state Senate.

Statewide unofficial totals: 

Yes: 957,223

No: 552,308

Shelby County unofficial totals:

Yes: 115,363

No: 66,514

This story will be updated with final, unofficial state and local numbers when they are available.


tennessee constitution slavery Tennessee Right to Work

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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