TNGOP: Democratic Chair Misleading Public About Primary Election Problems

Memo from Tennessee Republican Party; Aug. 23, 2010:

M E M O R A N D U M

TO: Tennessee Media

FROM: Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney

RE: Misleading Claims Made by TNDP Chairman

DATE: August 23, 2010

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester has made a number of misleading claims and accusations regarding this year’s primary elections. Essentially, Chairman Forrester has accused Republicans of conspiring to manipulate elections in order to secure wins. The fact is, Chairman Forrester has no evidence to support any of his claims and in fact was forced to admit in an article published over the weekend that most of the human error mistakes that occurred during the primary were made under the leadership of staff appointed and hired while Democrats controlled county election commissions across the state. According to the Tennessean:

“He conceded that some of the mistakes might have been made by people hired before Republicans came to power…” (“TN Dems claim GOP made errors in elections,” Tennessean, 08/21/10)

Now that Forrester has been forced to admit that his recent unfounded claims are nothing more than propaganda, I wanted to bring to your attention some important facts that will further dispel his misleading claims.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“‘Secretary of State Tre Hargett and his election coordinator Mark Goins have continued to show their willingness to manipulate vote counts to keep their party in power,’ Forrester said.” (Press Release, 08/11/10)

FACT:

Chairman Forrester has zero evidence for any of these claims. In fact, his brazen attempts to smear the names of respected state leaders by making completely unfounded accusations is both reckless and irresponsible. These types of flagrantly false accusations have no place in Tennessee politics.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“Reported election mishaps in Rutherford, Davidson, Hawkins, Maury and Shelby counties have revealed troubling problems in Tennessee and the Republicans responsible for conducting those elections, according to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.” (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Four of the five counties mentioned above have election administrators who were appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission. The fifth released a report naming a staffer responsible for a data entry error. That staffer was brought on years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Rutherford County – Former Rutherford County Democrat Party Chairman and current Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to reinstate election administrators appointed by a Democrat-controlled Election Commission. A Chattanooga Times-Free Press report showing he was one of those hires can be read here. Following issues that arose during this year’s primary in Rutherford County, multiple news reports highlight Penuel’s role in the situation: According to the Daily News Journal:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Davidson County Election Administrator Ray Barrett resumed his role as election administrator in 2004, four-years prior to the county having a Republican-controlled election commission. According to a WKRN report:

Barrett has worked for Metro government for more than 50 years and spent 25 years with the election commission. He resumed the role of Election Administrator in 2004. (“Nashville Election Administrator Ray Barrett to resign,WKRN, 07/07/10)

Hawkins County – A report in the Kingsport-Times News confirms that Hawkins County Election Administrator Patricia Lumpkins was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission and joined a class-action lawsuit to try and keep from being removed from her position in 2008. According to that report:

Following the November 2008 elections, there was a Republican majority in the Tennessee General Assembly, and new Republican-majority election commissions were appointed statewide… Some elections administrators didn’t go quietly, including Lumpkins, who joined a federal class-action lawsuit with other administrators in U.S. District Court in Nashville attempting to block their ouster. (“Tennessee high court opts out of elections administrator lawsuit,” Kingsport Times-News, 02/23/10)

A recent report that followed the August 5 primary elections highlights Lumpkins’ comments about her role in these elections. According to that report:

The county’s election administrator, Patricia Lumpkins, realized the error early, and the commission manually checked the votes… Lumpkins assures the public that the certification process she, her staff, and the Hawkins County Election Commissioners are going through is the best way to make sure all votes are counted, and accurate. (“The Hawkins County election glitch awards a different commissioner,TriCities.com, 08/13/10)

Maury County – According to records on file with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Maury County Election Administrator Todd Baxter has been certified as an administrator since 1995. A call to the Maury County Election Commission confirmed he has been the administrator there for at least the past 12 years – meaning he was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Shelby County – A recent news article points out that the data entry mistake that caused problems was due to an employee by the name of Dennis Boyce and that Boyce was brought on staff a number of years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction… The causative mistake, documented in a report prepared jointly by Meyers and Johnson, was a freely acknowledged one by the commission’s I T director, Dennis Boyce, a civil servant, who told commission director Rich Holden on the morning of election day, Thursday, August 5, that “he had made an error in selecting one of the data files” that were loaded into the Electronic Poll Book (EPM) used for voting that day… Giannini estimated that Boyce’s service at the Election Commission dated back at least nine years – which meant that he was hired during a period of Democratic control of the commission. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“If we had those [optical scan] machines in place earlier this month and Republicans hadn’t fired so many experienced election administrators, we likely would not have encountered as many problems,” Forrester said. (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Many of the issues that arose during voting have been attributed to human error, meaning the type of voting machine being used would not be a factor in whether or not these errors occurred.

Rutherford County – Election Administrator Hooper Penuel, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, admitted his human error. According to a news report:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Election Administrator Ray Barrett, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, said a voting machine in one of the precincts was mistakenly not counted. According to the Tennessean:

An audit by the Davidson County Election Commission turned up a previously uncounted voting machine from one precinct, Election Administrator Ray Barrett confirmed this morning. (“Election audit drops Henry’s lead over Yarbro to 11 votes,” Tennessean, 08/16/10)

Shelby County – The Shelby County Election Commission has released a report citing human error as the cause for election problems during the primary. The staffer responsible was hired under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)