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Tracy Concedes to DesJarlais in 4th District

Letter from State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville; August 25, 2014:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I am announcing my decision about whether or not to file a contest of the August 7th Republican Primary for the Fourth Congressional District. When I started this campaign, my goal was to offer the citizens of the 4th District a choice in who to represent them in Congress. I presented my plan to offer conservative, effective leadership, and my opponents offered theirs. And after over 75,000 votes were cast in the Republican Primary, less than 40 votes separated the incumbent Congressman and me.

Our campaign staff and volunteers have been diligently gathering and analyzing information from all 16 counties in the District. Through the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as directly, we have communicated with the County Election Commissions. Our staff has attended many of the meetings at which Election Commissions counted provisional ballots, as well the meetings at which the Election Commissions certified the votes in all of the August 7th elections. A great deal of information has come to me through formal and informal sources.

For example, there were votes by people who were not on the rolls and should have cast provisional ballots, but voted on machines so there was no way to determine whether those were legal votes. There were voters who were not given ballots for the primary election, but only for the General Election. There are counties that are split between the Fourth District and a different district, either the Seventh or the Third, and we know of at least one voter who was given a ballot for the wrong Congressional District. We know of a voter who was told that he had already voted, when he had not, which leads to the inference that other voters were told the same thing and did not take the time to assert their rights.

We have consulted with knowledgeable people, and I have consulted with my family and, most importantly I have prayed for guidance. In the end, the decision of whether or not to file a contest was mine and mine alone.

I have decided to refrain from contesting this election. I am not willing to put the State Republican Primary Board, the Secretary of State’s Office and Division of Elections, the County Election Commissions, the campaign staff, my volunteers, my family and the public through additional weeks of litigation, with uncertainty as to who the nominee will be.

State law provides that ballots must be ready to send out to military, overseas and other absentee voters 45 days before the November election, and I am not willing to put them in a difficult position. A contest would not be the right thing for the Republican Party and the conservative cause in Tennessee. Contests of primary elections are extremely compressed. The Fourth District is geographically widespread. Under state law, if there is a recount, all votes in every county must be recounted, even in counties where we are confident that the counts were accurate. A recount does not uncover votes that were illegal or that were illegally kept from being cast. These factors weigh against a contest.

I assure the public that the Secretary of State’s office, and the Division of Elections in that office, have been responsive, fair and objective and have done their job in an exemplary way. That office is in the best of hands. Chairman Chris Devaney, the staff and the counsel for the Tennessee Republican Primary Board went into action immediately after Election Night to prepare for a contest, and I thank them. I am forever grateful to my family, staff, volunteers, contributors, and the voters who placed their faith in me and have encouraged me throughout the campaign and in this decision-making period. I also want to comment that the press has reported fairly, neutrally and calmly, and I sincerely appreciate their demeanor.

I have called Rep. DesJarlais to inform him of my decision to concede and congratulated him. One reason why I am at peace about my decision is that I am devoted to my service as the Senator from the Fourteenth Senatorial District of Tennessee. Serving the people of the Fourteenth District and helping to make Tennessee a better place to live, work, do business and go to school is a high honor. I will continue to serve in the Senate with dedication, energy and integrity. Much is at stake for our country and our state; I look forward to helping us meet the challenges ahead.

God bless and Thank you,

Jim Tracy

Early Voting Encouraged By State Election Officials

As the state enters the final days of the primary-election early-voting period, state election officials are urging Tennessee voters to get down to the polls early to avoid long wait times on Aug. 7.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins spoke on a conference call Wednesday to reporters from around the state about the extra long ballots for this election period.

“As we’ve emphasized before, this is the longest, or at least one of the longest ballots in Tennessee history,” Hargett told reporters, and added that the estimated time to complete a full ballot is about five to eight minutes.

The “added dynamic” contributing to the exceptional length of this year’s ballots are the inclusion of the retention questions for the 23 state appellate and Supreme Court judges, Hargett said.

According to Hargett, 368,111 people have so far participated in early voting, which is a 10 percent increase over the turnout for the August 2010 election.

Hargett is urging people to vote early to limit the lines on election day to make the day go smoother for state and local elections officials. Shorter lines of voters on election day means the polls close earlier, which means election commissions will be able to get the results out quicker, he said.

“We just want to encourage if people know how they’re going to vote, we want them to go ahead and take advantage of early voting,” Hargett said. “Certainly if they’re not ready to cast their vote, they’re certainly entitled to do it on election day, and we encourage them to do so.”

However, despite the longer ballots, Goins said that he had not heard of any problems with lengthy early voting times around the state so far, and that things appear “to be moving pretty smoothly.”

“People are not experiencing long lines during early voting. And obviously the numbers bear out that more people are taking advantage of it four years ago,” Goins said.

In the August elections of 2010, voter turnout was at 29 percent, Hargett said, and added that voter turnout in August of 2012 was “slightly under 20 percent.” In the November 2012 general election turnout  was “just under 62 percent,” the secretary of state said.

 

TCA Calls on Hargett, Goins to Look Into Election Commission Problems

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 30, 2012: 

Last week it came to our attention that the electronic poll books used in the August 2 primary election in Davidson County, TN, defaulted to the Republican ballot, possibly affecting thousands of voters. Read the whole story here.

Since then, Tennessee Citizen Action has called upon the Davidson County Election Commission to explain what happened and who was responsible. What we hear from them, however, is that they were ” pleased with the results” and ” stand behind their new technology.”

Today, we asked Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins to intervene and refuse to certify the August 2 primary election. Their answer is that they have no control over the certification process:

Mr. Hargett and Mr. Goins have described a process in which they are trying to get answers from Albert Tieche, the Davidson County Election Administrator and another process in which they will notify the 19,714 voters who may have been affected. So where are their answers? And have they contacted voters yet? And why are they going to certify the election today without receiving those answers or hearing from voters? Where are the intervening checks and balances at the state level?

We once again urge Secretary of State Hargett and the State Election Coordinator Goins to look at the County Election Commission problems with a sense of urgency and seriousness the voters deserve, instead of abdicating their control and authority.

We ask you to do the same.

COUNCILMAN-AT-LARGE MEGAN BARRY AND METRO COUNCIL SEEK TO REMOVE FUNDING, CALL FOR COMPLETE AUDIT

Also today, Councilmember-at-Large Megan Barry, along with Councilman-at-large Ronnie Steine, Councilman-at-large Jerry Maynard, and Councilman and Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee Lonnell Matthews moved to remove funding for the purpose of purchasing additional electronic poll books and called for a complete performance audit of the Davidson County Election Commission.

We stand with the Metro Council and their request.

You can read about all about how the electronic poll books work and who was affected here.

E-Balloting System Showed Problems Aug. 2, Activist Says

A new system that checks in voters before they cast ballots had glitches during the recent primary, and the irregularities could have troubling implications if the system is launched statewide, Tennessee Citizen Action’s Mary Mancini said Monday.

Mancini, executive director of the left-leaning public advocacy group, said three elected officials and at least two registered voters in Davidson County were electronically issued Republican ballots by default using electronic poll books during the Aug. 2 primary election. Mancini said the system issued tickets for GOP ballots if the voter was not asked which ballot he or she wanted or poll workers failed to hit the Democratic primary ballot key hard enough.

“It is obviously outrageous that it defaults to any party ballot. It should not default to any ballot, at all,” Mancini said outside the Davidson County Election Commission office Monday.

Citizen Action and the League of Women Voters are asking the state to audit the primary election and the Davidson County Election Commission.

Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins is already looking into the irregularities and is recommending against using the electronic poll books in the general election, according to Secretary of State Spokesman Black Fontenay.

Policing Parties’ Candidates Not Within ‘State’s Purview’: State Elections Official

The state’s elections coordinator says he doesn’t have the authority to scrap the results of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, in which a little-known candidate whose “hatred and bigotry” has prompted the party to disavow his candidacy won the nomination.

Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said there’s no time to hold a new primary, and no grounds to do so, in a letter to Larry Crim who came in a distant third to Mark E. Clayton. Clayton garnered 30 percent of the vote in the field of seven candidates.

Clayton followed all the legal requirements in qualifying to have his name on the ballot, and the state Democratic Party did not move to disqualify him in the seven-day window following the qualification deadline prescribed in state law, Goins says in the letter dated Aug. 7.

The grounds you and (your lawyer) stated to me were that Chip Forrester as chairman of the Democratic Party failed to properly carry out his duties charged to him under the Tennessee Democratic Party’s bylaws. Let me be clear that it is not within the state’s purview to determine whether Chip Forrester is adequately performing the duties assigned to him by the party.

In other words, like deciding who is a “bona fide” member of the party for primary voting purposes, this is an area governed by the parties.

The state Democratic Party has explained the outcome of the election by saying that Clayton’s last name, beginning with a ‘C’, appeared at the top of the list and was therefore the default choice for any voters confused by the array of choices.

His win is a mystery, seeing as how Clayton didn’t play the money game and at last check his website was down. His opponent in November, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, had a cool $6.3 million as of mid-July.

Forrester told the Nashville Scene that Clayton’s affiliation with Public Advocate of the United States, an anti-gay group based in Falls Church, Va., was cause for concern.

“This kind of hatred and bigotry is not a candidate that the Democratic Party can embrace,” Forrester said.

More than 48,000 members of the party’s primary voters cast their ballots for Clayton last week.

Voter ID Law Debate Continues

Officials on both sides of the debate over the state’s new voter ID law are pointing the blame at each other about who, exactly, is disenfranchising voters.

Liberal advocacy groups like Citizen Action say the lawmakers who agreed to turn away voters who show up at the polls without a government-issued photo identification are at fault.

But a handful of conservative lawmakers and Haslam administration officials speaking to the issue on Capitol Hill Tuesday are blaming those same groups for implying that the General Assembly is taking away some people’s ability to vote.

“Misinformation is a disenfranchisement. If someone reads that they are disenfranchised, they may believe that,” Mark Goins, the state’s coordinator of elections, told the Senate State and Local Government study committee that met to discuss the issue.

One such example, said Goins, was a recent op-ed by Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, who alleged the Legislature is obstructing his 94-year-old mother’s right to vote because she doesn’t have a photo ID. In the editorial that ran last week, Herron tallied the cost of getting proper identification to at least $100, adding up the cost of ordering a birth certificate, the cost of gas getting to and from the DMV to obtain a photo ID and the cost of taking time off work and characterizing it as a “poll tax.”

“For those who are working people and poor people and hurting people … this will make it harder for them to vote,” Herron said after the hearing. “Those who don’t have photo IDs, and there are 675,000 Tennesseans, according to the Department of Safety, that do no have a driver’s license with a photo on it, they might have some other ID, but if I was not a state senator, I would not have any other government-issued ID, and that’s true of most people.”

Goins says anyone over 65 who doesn’t get a photo ID can vote absentee by mail, which is contrary to comments like Herron’s that indicate the state is creating barriers to the ballot box. He said 126,000 registered voters have driver’s licenses without photos, although some of them have other forms of ID they can use.

But absentee voting for some is not fair for all voters, said Mary Mancini, executive director of Citizen Action of Tennessee, a “consumer advocacy” which is asking voters to sign petitions asking the Legislature to repeal the new law.

“Voting is supposed to be a level playing field. It’s the most basic right that we all have,” she said. “As it stands right now, only voters 65 or older could vote, no questions asked, absentee. That’s an exception, and whenever you are making an exception like that, you are unleveling the playing field.”

The issue has become a national one. According to a report by the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, some 5 million people will have a tougher time voting this year as they adapt to new rules.

U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin quizzed Gov. Bill Haslam about the state’s new voter ID law last month by sending him a letter asking how the Volunteer State expects to implement the new law to make sure every voter — including those who are elderly, live in rural areas, are low-income or belong to a minority group — has what he needs at the ballot box.

Haslam’s no-frills response included details about asking county clerks to issue photo IDs, opening up express lanes for ID seekers at the DMV and reaching out to voters.

“Can I absolutely guarantee there will be no lines anywhere and you walk right in? No, I can’t,” Haslam told reporters Tuesday in Nashville after speaking to a monthly luncheon meeting of Republicans.

“But we’re doing everything we can from our standpoint, and again, like I said, everything from extending that to county clerks to make that as easy as possible,” he continued.

Some 30 county clerks have agreed to issue photo IDs, a number Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons told the committee he hopes to expand to at least 50 in the next few years. He also plans to open certain DMV centers on Saturdays beginning in November and running through the March presidential primary.

According to the Department of Safety, any government-issued photo ID can be used at the polls, including:

  • Valid or expired Tennessee drivers license with photo.
  • Valid or expired out-of-state driver’s license with photo.
  • U.S. passport.
  • Federal employee ID with photo.
  • State employee ID with photo, including IDs issued by state universities.
  • U.S. military ID.
  • Gun permit card with photo.

College student IDs are not eligible.

Election Officials Don’t Want People ‘Surprised’ By New Voter ID Law

State of Tennessee Press Release, July 27, 2011:

Campaign to Educate Public about Photo ID Requirement for Voting

The Tennessee Department of State has launched a campaign to educate citizens about the new photo identification requirement that will go into effect for elections held in the state after Jan. 1, 2012.

After that date, people who wish to vote will be required to show photo identification when they arrive at the polls. Accepted forms of identification include any photo ID issued by the State of Tennessee – including drivers’ licenses – and photo IDs issued by other states or the federal government, including U.S. passports, government employee identification cards and military ID cards.

The law, a safeguard against voter fraud, allows people who forget to bring photo IDs to the polls to cast provisional ballots and provide their county election officials with proof of identity within two business days after an election. People who vote absentee are not required to show photo IDs. And people who have religious objections to being photographed may sign oaths acknowledging their identities.

People who can’t afford other forms of photo identification may get a state-issued ID, free of charge, at drivers’ license offices around the state.

“I believe this new requirement is a common sense step that will increase public confidence in our elections,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Requiring photo IDs will decrease the chances that an eligible voter can be impersonated by someone else at the polls. As a voter, I want to know that my ballot counts just the same – no more, no less – as any other eligible voter. Photo IDs help ensure people aren’t casting more than one ballot – and that those who are ineligible to vote don’t cast ballots at all. For those reasons, photo IDs are one more tool we can use to help combat voter fraud.”

The Tennessee General Assembly approved the photo ID requirement during this year’s legislative session. Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Debra Maggart were the prime sponsors of the legislation.

The Department of State includes the Division of Elections, which will be spearheading the outreach effort to citizens. As part of that effort, the Division of Elections has provided local election officials with information about the new requirement that will be distributed to people casting ballots in municipal elections being held around Tennessee this year. Also, information about the new law will be posted on the Department of State’s web site.

Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins said those are only two of the many ways the department will be using to get its message out to the public.

“It is very important to us that people understand this new requirement so they are not surprised when they get to the polls next year,” Coordinator Goins said. “I am encouraging election officials and other leaders in Tennessee’s 95 counties to help us spread the word about photo IDs. I invite civic groups and other organizations to contact our office for information that they can distribute to their members – and to invite their county administrator of elections to come to a meeting to explain how the new law will work.”

Secretary Hargett and Coordinator Goins also plan to make the new law a recurring theme during their public speaking appearances around the state.

“I strongly believe that citizens of our state are comfortable with the idea of showing photo IDs in order to vote – just as they must do to board a plane, cash a check or perform any number of routine activities,” Secretary Hargett said. “A poll conducted last month by Rasmussen Reports indicated that 75 percent of people across the country support the photo ID requirement – with only 18 percent against it. Other polls have shown even stronger support for photo IDs, so we feel people clearly understand the benefit of making this change in order to help protect the integrity of our elections.”

To view answers to some frequently asked questions about the new law, go to http://www.tn.gov/sos/election/IDRequirement.20120101.pdf