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TCA: Electronic Polls Defaulted to GOP During August 2 Primaries

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 28, 2012: 

It has come to our attention that the electronic poll books used in the August 2 primary election in Davidson County, TN, defaulted to the Republican ballot. Read the whole story here.

This is unbelievable and outrageous. No piece of any equipment that’s part of any election should EVER default to one party or another. Ever. The fact that the electronic poll books default to the majority party an issue that the DavidsonCounty Election Commission (DCEC) must address.

You can read about all about how the electronic poll books work and who was affected here, but it first came to our a few days after the election when Davidson County resident Karen Lawrence said [pdf] that when she and her daughter went to vote, her daughter was not asked which ballot she wanted and was automatically given the Republican ballot to vote on.

Ms. Lawrence also overheard a conversation between poll workers:

“My concern was that I overheard the two women who worked the registration desk discussing the error made on my daughter’s first receipt. The older lady who made the error insisted that she “hit Democrat” and that was the 2nd time it had happened to her today. The younger poll worker who ultimately corrected the error responded saying that you have to make sure because “the screen automatically chooses Republican and you have to select Democrat.”

A few days after that, we were contacted by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall who told us that he also was never asked which ballot he wanted and was automatically given, and then voted on, the Republican ballot. When he realized his mistake, Sheriff Hall immediately phoned Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche to report the error. A few days after that, Mr. Tieche and Sheriff Hall spoke again and Mr. Tieche told Sheriff Hall that yes, the machines do indeed default to the Republican ballot if the poll worker does not choose a ballot.

Tennessee Citizen Action calls for the following:

  • Immediately halt of the use of the EPBs in any and all elections.
  • Complete & independent audit of the August 2 primary.
  • Complete & independent audit of Davidson County Election Commission.
  • The state must notify the TN Attorney General, District Attorney, and US Attorney ASAP to determine if this is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
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Press Releases

Senate Dems Want Inquiry Into Statewide Voting Problems

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; August 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – ­Senate Democrats are calling on Secretary of State Tre Hargett to launch a full inquiry into voting irregularities across the state.

“There are a lot of questions about the integrity of the August primaries, and voters deserve answers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “We didn’t have these problems four years ago.”

In Shelby and now Davidson County, there have been reports of voters getting the wrong primary ballot and voting in the wrong district. State election officials have admitted that poll worker training was inadequate. Davidson County officials were advised against using electronic poll books, but used them anyway.

“We need to know why the machines defaulted to a particular party’s ballot,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We need to know who made that decision, and we need to know whether these machines will be used again.”

Democratic leaders called on lawmakers to reconsider the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which requires that precincts use optical scanners that produce a paper ballot. The bipartisan law passed unanimously in 2008 but implementation has been delayed.

“People invest considerable time in deciding how to cast their vote, and when they leave the voting booth, they should be confident their vote counted the way they intended,” Sen. Finney said. “I hope state election officials will take these irregularities seriously and conduct a thorough review.”

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Press Releases

TNDP Wants State Election Probe in Shelby Co., All of TN

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; July 26, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — With more than 1,000 wrong ballots cast in Shelby County, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged state election officials Thursday to review early voting ballots across the state.

“Republicans have spent the last two years talking about the importance of pure elections and yet they have failed over and over again to protect our voting rights,” Forrester said. “Their far-reaching incompetence and mismanagement has completely undermined our elections and any shred of faith voters may have had left in the process.”

Election officials confirmed to Memphis media that early voters in Shelby County cast more than 1,000 wrong ballots during early voting.

With so many mistakes, state officials should review early voting ballots ahead of the August 2 Primary Election — specifically in districts and precincts that were severely altered by redistricting — and report on the scope and magnitude of the “wrong ballot” mishap.

Initially election officials refused to acknowledge the widespread error, but thanks to the persistence of two concerned citizens, Joe Weinberg and Steve Ross, voters now have an understanding of the problem in Shelby County. So far state officials have failed to address whether the “wrong ballot” oversight is happening elsewhere in Tennessee.

“The taxpayers funding these elections deserve to know whether their vote counted or it was stolen because of incompetence,” Forrester said. “How big is this problem? When will it be fixed? Unfortunately, we don’t know because Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has not publicly addressed the issue that 1,000 wrong ballots were cast on his watch.”

Local election officials say they won’t lift a finger to fix this blunder. The pattern of neglect we see from our election officials is unacceptable.

“From the failed implementation of the voter-suppressing photo ID law to the disenfranchisement of law-abiding voters, we have called on Coordinator Goins multiple times to take some responsibility and fix the problems plaguing our elections, but it appears he’s more interested in playing politics than being accountable to voters,” Forrester said. “While we are proud to live in a state where citizens stand up to a neglectful government, our citizens deserve leaders who will hold themselves accountable for the errors happening under their command.”