Republican incompetence fouls elections process
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester wants the state elections chief held accountable for the high-profile mistakes seen in the Presidential Primary. Forrester is calling for top-to-bottom review of the Primary Election and the state election office to address a pattern of serious errors that denied voters access to the polls and even disenfranchised a former U.S. Congressman and his wife.
“There has to be accountability in government, and when there are this many mistakes, accountability starts at the top,” Forrester said. “Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins have decided that attacking the victims of their incompetence is more important than doing their jobs, which is to ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
Former Congressman Lincoln Davis, whose right to vote was denied on March 6th, has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the thousands of Tennesseans who were purged from the voter rolls as part of a campaign of voter disenfranchisement launched by Republicans in 2010. The lawsuit seeks to shed light on the secretive process used to purge voters and to restore the names of those unfairly removed from the voter rolls.
This attack on voter rights is not limited to Congressman Davis; it is but one in a series of election failures that happened on or before the Primary. These failures raise serious concerns about the leadership and accountability of Secretary Hargett and Coordinator Goins:
- Former U.S. Congressman Lincoln Davis and his wife were wrongly denied the right to vote. For nearly two decades, Davis has been registered to vote in Fentress County. However, on March 6th he was informed that he had been purged from the rolls without any notification. He has filed a class action lawsuit, represented by civil rights attorney George Barrett, that seeks an investigation of the purging process to determine the size and scope of the disenfranchisement and to restore voting rights to those wrongfully purged from the rolls.
- The election office only distributed government-issued photo IDs to 13 percent of registered voters over age 60 who needed it. There are more than 100,000 registered voters over the age of 60 in Tennessee who still lack the government-issued photo ID now required to vote. The election chiefs won’t acknowledge how many eligible voters under the age of 60 don’t have acceptable ID.
- Election officials violated state law by cutting the early vote period short in Davidson County.
- A Nashville judge was nearly denied a right to vote because a poll worker had not been properly trained on the haphazard government-issued photo ID law. It led to a shameful moment in the General Assembly, when a sitting senator wrongly accused the judge of voting “fraudulently and illegally.”
- Voters who forgot their government-issued photo ID and cast a provisional ballot in Davidson County received a form instructing them to call a wrong phone number for help with their ID.
“This is flagrant incompetence and mismanagement. Tennessee taxpayers deserve to see some accountability and a plan to fix this unbelievable mess,” Forrester said. “At this point, there are far too many errors and red flags for any voter to feel confident in our election office.”
This isn’t Secretary Hargett and Coordinator Goins first brush with unlawful voter purges. In 2010, election officers in Benton County wrongfully challenged more than 2,000 voters’ registrations.
“The public’s trust will not be restored until Secretary Hargett and Coordinator Goins take some responsibility for this mess and do what they should have done two years ago — eliminate the politics and the errors from the election office and move our voter registration system into the 21st century,” Forrester said.
Coordinator Mark Goins Attacks Davis’ Motives Rather Than Accounting for His Errors. Goins stated that “I think part of it has to do with the fact that he lost that last election, and it’s tough when you lose an election,” instead of investigating the failures of his department to effectively administer the voter registration rolls. [AP, 3/12/12]
Lincoln Davis Sues State Over Disenfranchisement. Former Congressman Lincoln Davis, represented by nationally renowned civil rights attorney George Barrett, has sued state officials in charge of the elections, seeking a top-to-bottom review of the procedures used to purge voters, and restore the registrations of those wrongfully purged. [TNDP, 3/12/12]
Election Officials Apologize for Denying Former Congressman Lincoln Davis and His Wife the Right to Vote. [Times Free Press, 3/7/12]
In Tennessee, more than 100,000 registered voters over the age of 60 don’t have government-issued photo IDs. State officials have not released any estimates of how many voters under the age of 60 are affected. The Brennen Center for Justice estimates about 1 out of 10 eligible voters nationwide don’t have a government-issued photo ID — that’s roughly 500,000 Tennesseans. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 12/29/11]
»» 2,100 IDs a Month: Since July 1, 2011, the department has issued 17,067 photo IDs for voting purposes. The vast majority (16,199) were non-photo driver licenses converted into photo driver licenses, while 868 were original photo identification cards. [TN.gov, 2/27/12]
Erratic State Senator Stacey Campfield wrongfully accuses law-abiding Nashville judge of voting “fraudulently and illegally.” The state elections office said the judge’s card was issued by the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts and meets the criteria of state law requiring a “state-issued identification” for voting. [Humphrey on the Hill, 3/6/12]
Davidson County Election Commission Shortchanged Voters a Saturday of Early Voting in Violation of State Law. According to the State Coordinator of Elections, Davidson County should have also been open Saturday, Feb. 18, and they were the only county in the state not open. [WSMV, 3/1/12]
»» Davidson County Election Commission Administrator of Elections Received $20,000 Raise in 2011 Bringing Yearly Salary to $103,415. [July 1, 2011 Minutes of the Davidson County Election Commission, accessed 3/7/12]
»» One Month Later: After Getting a $20,000 Raise, the Election Administrator Was Given 20 Vacation Days. The Davidson County Election Commission voted 3-2 to increase Elections Administrator Albert Tieche’s vacation days from 10 to 20, despite Tieche holding the job for less than one year. [Nashville City Paper, 8/12/11]
In 2010, the Benton County Elections Administrator Wrongfully Challenged the Registration of 2,096 Voters Including the Wife of State Rep. Butch Borchert. The Benton Elections official said challenges were being made because of minor omissions in paperwork that had been previously accepted — a violation of the Voting Rights Act. [WPLN.org, 4/20/10]