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Press Releases

Stewart Co Election Commish Chair Files Election Finance Complaint Against Justices

Press release from The Tennessee Forum; August 5, 2014:

NASHVILLE — A complaint recently filed with the Registry of Election Finance and made available to the Tennessee Forum levels three new charges at the campaign to retain Supreme Court Judges Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade. The complaint follows an earlier charge against Judge Gary Wade and establishes a pattern of disregard for campaign law and judicial ethics by the judges.

“This latest complaint is clear, concise and well-documented. With the election only days away, I implore Judges Clark, Lee and Wade to answer these charges immediately,” said Susan Kaestner. “The voters have a right to know whether judges seeking eight-year terms as the final arbiter of law and justice in the state have themselves been violating the law.”

“If we can’t trust these judges to follow simple campaign laws, how can we trust them to properly interpret the constitution and laws of this state?”

In the complaint, Robert Mallory says the joint campaign effort of the three judges is coordinating with the newly formed Tennesseans for Fair Courts PAC in violation of Tennessee state law. Mallory, who serves as Chairman of the Stewart County Election Commission, notes that the two groups’ current television ads (seen here and here) contain almost identical messages delivered in a similar way.

Mallory also points out that the campaign’s signs are illegal. Mallory references a news report that includes Justice Sharon Lee placing a campaign yard sign that does not comply with campaign finance law disclosure requirements, which is a criminal violation.

Mallory also notes that the coordinated campaign for the three judges’ Facebook page, which became active in May, carries a URL which is identical in name to the Tennessee for Fair Courts PAC which was not formed until June.

The PAC also failed to disclose whether expenditures were either in-kind or independent or in support of or opposing a particular candidate as required by campaign finance regulations.

A copy of the complaint can be accessed by clicking here.

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Press Releases

TCA Pleased Davidson Co. Dropping Electronic Polls, Insists Questions Remain

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; Sept. 5, 2012: 

Nashville, Tenn. (September 5, 2012) — A week after Tennessee Citizen Action exposed anomalies in August primary and problems with the Electronic Poll Books used during the primary, the Davidson County Election Commission voted to reject the use of the machines in the November election and the Metro Council voted to remove the requested $400,000 funding for the machines.

“While we are pleased with the results of the Election Commission meeting and the decision of the Metro Council, questions remain,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “and the people of Davidson County deserve answers.”

The Electronic Poll Books (EPBs) used in the August 2 primary election in Davidson County, TN, defaulted to the Republican ballot if a poll worker did not choose a specific ballot for the voter. Many questions regarding the use and performance of the machines, as well as the decisions made by the Election Commission, remain unanswered:

  • Why did it take almost a month and pressure from the media for the Administrator of Elections to admit that there were problems with the Electronic Poll Books?
  • What does their process to address and report voter complaints and issues look like? Is it thorough and transparent?
  • According to Jon Cooper, Metro Council attorney and staff, the election commission had no authority to buy the EPBs without the council appropriating the money. Who made the decision to circumvent the council and the process and purchase the machines?
  • If the Davidson County Election Commission did not direct Elections Systems & Software (ES&S), the manufacturer of the electronic poll books, to program the machines to default to the Republican ballot, then who did? Why?
  • With all the problems ES&S has experienced in the past with their voting technology, whose decision was it to give them the contract for the Electronic Poll Books? Why?
  • The administrator of the Davidson County Election Commission continues to say that using the Electronic Poll Books is an advantage and yet anomalies in split precincts have yet to be addresses – i.e. why were two people living in the same house given different ballots?
  • Will the EPB’s default to one precinct or another if used in a split precinct?
  • What does the poll worker recruittment and training process look like in Davidson County? Is it rigorous enough?

“Along with the Metro Council, we will continue to push for a complete audit of the Davidson County Election Commission,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “No piece of any equipment that’s part of any election should ever default to one party or another. EVER. The fact that this happened, as well as the processes in place that allowed it to happen, need to be investigated further.”

Background: http://www.tnca.org/2012/08/27/machines-default-to-republican-ballot/

 

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Rutherford Co. Gets New Elections Chief

Rutherford County has a new elections administrator, after a search process clouded by conflicts of interest allegations and lack of transparency.

Attorney Nicole Lester was hired by the county election commission Monday night, after a testy exchange over Lester’s ties to the Republican sheriff.

The Daily News Journal says the vote was along party lines, with Republican commissioners backing her.

Democrats Denice Rucker and Johnny Taylor opposed giving the job to Lester because her husband, Joe Russell, worked as the campaign treasurer for Republican Sheriff Robert Arnold and accepted appointment to be the chief of administration for the sheriff after Arnold won the Aug. 5 election.

“She has a perceived conflict of interest, so I’m disappointed in the results,” Rucker said after the meeting.

Lester will earn $84,321 annually and succeeds Tom Walker, who left the post in February, and Hooper Penuel, who retired in 2010 after he failed to hold early voting as required. The Daily News Journal opined last month that the hiring process had been harmed by violations of the Sunshine Law and political infighting.

Too much time has been spent on political bickering that has tarnished the commission’s reputation and left voters and taxpayers with a jaded view of the Election Office.

A cure is needed, and only transparency will provide it.