At least one set of county election officials who skipped out on offering a day of early voting as required by law will face disciplinary hearings in February.
The Tennessee Election Commission agreed Tuesday to decide whether to punish election officials in Hawkins County, in the Tri-Cities region of East Tennessee, but held off on scheduling a similar hearing for Rutherford County, which was home to narrow primary wins in the 6th Congressional District.
“I want someone to be held accountable,” said Mark Goins, state election coordinator. “It can’t just be a slap on the wrist.”
The state commission has the power to issue administrators a letter of reprimand, cut their pay and put them on probation for failing to follow state election laws. The body can also remove county election commissioners from office.
Both counties neglected to open the polls on the first Saturday of early voting during this summer’s primary election. County election commissioners from Hawkins and Rutherford Counties blame their local election administrators, saying it’s their job to know the law. A lawyer separately representing both administrators says the commissions voted in favor of the early voting days and should also have known the requirements.
State and county officials say they have received no official complaints about the closed primary election polls.
After penciling in Hawkins County for a hearing, officials said they’d revisit whether they need to examine the Rutherford County case because the local election administrator will likely be removed from office or retire before the February meeting, making any disciplinary action moot.