NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

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.

Press Releases

TCA: ‘Plethora of Election Problems, Mistakes’

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 9, 2012: 


The past few weeks saw a plethora of election problems and mistakes at the polls in Tennessee.

As we venture further into election season, Citizen Action urges all to be proactive in their voter mobilization and education. Everyone should know that voting is a right guaranteed to you by the Tennessee Constitution and you should never let anyone tell you that you can’t vote.

If you had any problems voting during the primary election last Thursday, August 2, please email us at or call 615-736-6040.

Even if the problem was resolved and you were able to vote, we want to hear your story. Every story means we are one step closer to holding our election administrators and commissioners accountable for fair and accurate elections.


ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, was back in the news last week, after holding yet another national convention. (Read about one progressive’s “Week With ALEC” here.)

We would agree with other critics that ALEC is a “a secretive, corporate-controlled lobby for conservative causes.” ALEC counts as its members executives of large corporations and mostly conservative state lawmakes. The lawmakers are tasked with carrying the legislation authored by the corporate executives back to their respective states. The large corporations do their part by contributing lots of $$$ to state legislator’s election campaigns.

Common Cause recenlty filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing ALEC of misusing their tax-exempt status by lobbying state legislators. The state of Wisconsin has also filed a complaint ” claiming that ALEC’s ‘scholarships’ for travel expenses to conventions violate a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators.” Tennessee also bans gifts from lobbyists to legislators but in 2006, with the help of ALEC Board Member Rep. Curry Todd* (R-Collierville), an explicit exemption was added for ” out-of-state travel expenses provided by ‘a recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials.‘”


The good news is that many of the corporations who once belonged to ALEC are fleeing from it. Some TN legislators have left as well.

The bad news is that many State Legislators are still members. Here’s the who’s who of TN legislators who are associated with ALEC:

TN House of Representatives

  • Rep. Curry Todd* (R-Collierville)
  • Rep-elect Susan Lynn* (R-Mt. Juliet)
  • Rep. John D. Ragan* (R-Oak Ridge)
  • Rep. Kevin D. Brooks* (R-Cleveland)
  • Rep. David Hawk* (R-Greeneville)
  • Rep. Bob Ramsey* (R-Maryville)
  • Rep. Tony Shipley* (R-Kingsport)
  • Rep. Vince Dean* (R-East Ridge)
  • Rep. Curtis Johnson* (R-Clarksville)
  • Rep. Gerald McCormick* (R-Chattanooga)
  • Rep. Charles Sargent* (R-Franklin)
  • Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville)
  • Rep. Stephen McManus* (R-Cordova)
  • Rep. Harry R. Brooks* (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Jimmy Eldridge* (R-Jackson)
  • Rep. Julia Hurley (R-Lenoir City)*
  • Rep. Mark White* (R-Memphis)
  • Rep. Phillip Johnson (R-Pegram)
  • Rep. Ryan A. Haynes* (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Joe Carr* (R-Lascassass)
  • Rep. Jon C. Lundberg* (R-Bristol)
  • Rep. Joshua G. Evans* (R-Greenbrier)
  • Rep. Mike T. Harrison* (R-Rogersville)
  • Rep. Johnny Montgomery (R-Sevierville)
  • Rep. Steve McDaniel* (R-Parkers Crossroads) (Read quotes here)
  • Rep. Barrett Rich* (R-Somerville)
  • Rep. Kelly Keisling* (R-Byrdstown) (Also recently made appearance in HuffPost)
  • Rep. Vance Dennis* (R-Savannah)
  • Rep. Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough)

TN Senate

  • Sen. Reginald Tate** (D-Memphis)
  • Sen. Ken Yager* (R-Harriman)
  • Sen. Dolores R. Gresham* (R-Somerville)
  • Sen. Steve Southerland** (R-Morristown)
  • Sen. Jim Tracy* (R-Shelbyville)
  • Sen. Bill Ketron** (R-Murfreesboro)
  • Sen. Mike Bell** (R-Riceville)
  • Sen. Brian K. Kelsey** (R-Germantown)
  • Sen. Mark S. Norris* (R-Collierville)
  • Sen. Ophelia Ford** (D-Memphis)
  • Sen. Jim Kyle* (D-Memphis)

*These members won their primary races last week. And here is a list of the August 2 Primary Election results.

** No re-election bid this year.


GOOD NEWS! We have a Constitutional challenge to Tennessee’s Photo ID to Vote law! The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports:

“An amended complaint was filed Tuesday by attorneys for the city and for two Memphis voters without state-issued ID cards whose provisional ballots in last Thursday’s election were not counted. The complaint charges that the voter photo ID requirement adds a new qualification for voting beyond the four listed in the Tennessee Constitution and is therefore an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote under both the federal and state constitutions.

The attorneys…have asked the federal court to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court whether requiring otherwise qualified voters in Tennessee to present photo IDs violates the state constitution.”

HERE WE GO! Thank you again to everyone who worked so hard last winter to repeal the law. The fight is not over yet!


It was only a matter of time. Finally, Jon Stewart skewers conservative charges of rampant voter fraud on last night’s edition of The Daily Show: “The Wizards of I.D.”

Watch Part 1.

Then watch Part 2.

Favorite line – “If you have a favorite Meg Ryan movie, you might be eleigible to vote!”


RALLY TO STOP VOTER SUPPRESSION IN TENNESSEE Please join to speak with one voice to decry this injustice. Saturday, August 11, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at Krutch Park, Knoxville, TN More info here.

COMMITTEE MEETING Tennessee Equality Project Nashville Committee Meeting at Nashville West Buffalo Wild Wings onWednesday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m.

CONFERENCE Tennessee Health Care Campaign
23rd Annual Conference on Saturday, August 18
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Kresge Learning Center
Meharry Medical College
1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Blvd. Nashville. For more info:

TRAINING: VOTER REGISTRATION Nashville’s League of Women Voters is hosting a “How to Register Voters” Train-the-Trainer workshop on Sat, August 18 10:30 am – 12 noon at the Goodwill Career Solutions center, Nashville

SUPER VOTER REGISTRATION DAY The NAACP, Middle Tennessee Urban League, Citizen Action, and others encourage your organization to join with us to organize and sponsor an all-day Voter Registration Drive on Sunday, August 19.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING WORKSHOP A Nashville Workshop on Faith-based Community Organizing on Saturday, August 25 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Spruce Street Baptist Church. Planned by The Nashville Faith-Based Organizing Project. Training by The Gamaliel Foundation. Register for free online here.

Press Releases

TN Citizen Action Reminds Voters Today is Election Day

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 2, 2012:  

If you need actual evidence of how the new “big money in politics” climate might affect things here in Tennessee then look no further than the Democratic primary between Rep. Jeanne Richardson and Rep. John Deberry in State House District 90 in Memphis.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Memphis Commercial Appeal have both reporting that:

“Two national groups that lobby for school vouchers and charter schools spent more than $140,000 in July in support of pro-voucher state Rep. John Deberry’s Democratic primary race against Rep. Jeanne Richardson in Memphis, according to new campaign financial disclosures. The ‘independent expenditures’ by the Super PACS, or political action committees, run by [Michelle Rhee’s] Students First and the American Federation for Children are a huge amount of money for a Tennessee legislative race.”

The real issue isn’t whether one candidate backs vouchers and the other doesn’t. The real issue is the gobs of out-of-state money influencing our state politics. The issue is that one candidate is seemingly bought and paid for by out-of-state corporate and special interests, and one is not.

So how, then, as Tennessee political analyst Trace Sharp asks, “do common folks, just regular people, compete with that kind of money in races that in the past didn’t see this high volume of, for lack of a better word, investment?”

Well, we only one answer right now: WE VOTE.

So GET OUT AND VOTE TODAY – and help to make the lines at your polling place as long as the lines at that pollo place.

But before you go…


Redistricting in Tennessee caused many changes, so doublecheck that you are going to the right voting location.

Also, some voters have been given incorrect ballots during early voting so you want to double check which State House, State Senate, and School board district (County District) you are before you go to make sure you are given the correct ballot.

You can do both of these in one place. Here’s how:


In Tennessee, in addition to being a registered vote, YOU WILL NEED A SPECIFIC PHOTO ID TO VOTE.

Any of the following photo IDs may be used, EVEN IF EXPIRED:

  • Tennessee or other state drivers license with your photo
  • United States Passport
  • Photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the federal, or any other state government
  • United States Military photo ID
  • State-issued handgun carry permit with your photo

Photo IDs NOT Accepted for Voting:

  • College student IDs
  • Photo IDs not issued by the federal or a state government are NOT acceptable

For a complete detailing of the law, go to


Just sayin’.

If you feel as if you are not being helped to your satisfaction by a poll worker, call you County Election Commission. The list is here.

Press Releases

TCA to hold Voter Mobilization Training Events

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; July 10, 2012:  

COURT UPHOLDS HEALTH CARE LAW: Highlights from Celebration Rally

On June 28 more than 100 Tennesseans gathered at Nashville General Hospital to celebrate the SCOTUS decision. The coalition of organizations leading the rally included: TN Health Care Campaign, TN Justice Center, TN Disability Coalition, Meharry Medical College, SEIU and Citizen Action.


“And so today we are so grateful for this ruling,” says Mary Mancini with TN Citizen Action.

Knoxville News Sentinel

By Michael Collins

“Thursday’s ruling means ‘relief and peace of mind for the people of TN who were already benefiting under the law and are now protected from the worst abuses of the insurance companies,’ said Mary Mancini, director of the pro-health reform group TN Citizen Action.”


Second-year medical student Italo Brown, a supporter of health-care reform, addresses the crowd at a rally.

TNCA BLOG: Justice for Consumers

The ACA already benefits more than 100 million people including thousands of seniors, small businesses, women and children in TN.


North Nashville Neighborhood Associations & Nashville Branch of NAACP Present:

Candidate Forum & Voter Education Event

Thursday, July 12
6:30 – 8:30 PM

North Precinct
2231 26th Avenue North, Nashville

Panel Guests: State Rep Brenda Gilmore; State House District 58: State Rep Mary Pruitt, Steve Turner, Harold Love, Jr.; School District: Ed Kindall, Sharon Gentry;

Criminal Court Clerk: Howard Gentry; Judge: Rachel Bell

Also, update on state voter ID law.

For more info: (615) 568-0955 or (615) 578-6510

Citizen Action Presents:

Photo ID to Vote
wn Hall Meeting

Tuesday, July 24
6:00 – 8:00 PM

Hermitage Precinct
3701 James Kay Lane, Hermitage, TN (to be confirmed)

Go to for more info.

Disability Law & Advocacy Center of TN presents:

VOTE TN! Summer 2012 Conferences

Are voters with disabilities ready for the election?

Click here for more info on dates and cities.


We get asked these questions a lot:

  1. “What can we do to overcome the ginormous pots of money that corporations and their CEOs are infusing into our political process?” and
  2. “What can we do to overcome a photo ID to vote law* that can “stymie voters” ?”

There’s only one answer: Work to make sure that every Tennessean who wants to vote can vote. Register voters. Make sure they have a ride to the polls. Make sure they have the government ID necessary to vote. Become a Poll Watcher. Etc. etc. But we can’t stop there. If voter mobilization is the only goal of our voter mobilization work, in two years we will be once again starting from scratch.

Instead we must use our work to build a community with power that can hold our elected representatives accountable. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick but Citizen Action is committed to it. And we are starting right now.

So with a nod to The Clash, on Saturday, July 21, we will hold the first of 4 different TRAINing modules that will help all of us to use our voter mobilization work to build power in our communities. These 4 trainings will be cycled through twice during the summer and will not be in vain! Please join our growing movement.

WHAT: Civic Engagement & Movement Building Training Part 1 – Voter Mobilization

This training will present concrete steps and actions that we can take to redefine the way we do civic engagement work so that we can start building long-term community power.

WHEN: Saturday, July 21, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

WHERE: Bordeaux Public Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike, Nashville, TN 37218 (MAP).

RSVP to if you plan to attend. Snacks will be provided.

Also, please send this to your lists if you think you have members who might be interested in attending.

There is also a Facebook event that you can share on your Facebooks.

*You know, the one where you have to present a government-issued photo ID to vote but it has to be a very specific government-issued ID.


Dates and times of all our trainings are below. Please check our website, for confirmation of locations and other details.

Cycle 1

Saturday, July 21 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Civic Engagement & Movement Building Part 1 – Voter Mobilization, Bordeaux Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike, Nashville

Saturday, July 28 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Morning Session: Voter Registration Rules and Best Practices, Bordeaux Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike, Nashville

Saturday, July 28 – 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Afternoon Session: Photo ID to Vote – Rules & Best Practives, Bordeaux Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike, Nashville

Saturday, Aug 4 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Civic Engagement & Movement Building Part 2 – Get Out the Vote & Election Protection, Bordeaux Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike

Cycle 2

Saturday, Aug 11 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Civic Engagement & Movement Building Part 1 – Voter Mobilization, Hermitage (Location TBA)

Saturday, Aug 18 – 10:30 am – 12:00 noon

Voter Registration Rules Best Practices – Hosted by the League of Women Voters Nashville, Goodwill Career Solutions Center, Room 118937 Herman Street, Nashville

Saturday, Aug 25 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Photo ID to Vote – Rules and Best Practices, Hermitage (Location TBA)

Saturday, Sept 8 – 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Civic Engagement & Movement Building Part 2 – Get Out the Vote & Election Protection, Hermitage (Location TBA)


There is now a calendar for all the civic engagement and potential civic engagement trainings, work & events at If you or your organization have something that you would like to post, email it to


Finding a balance in ‘good for business’

( Nashville Ledger)

“You have to look at the flip side,” says Mary Mancini, of TN Citizen Action, a nonprofit public interest and consumer rights organization. “It’s always good to encourage business. But there has to be a way to do that that is not at the expense of working people.”


Health Care Liberty and Justice Press Releases

Citizen Action Says Health Care Ruling Means ‘Peace of Mind’ for Tennesseans

Statement from Tennessee Citizen Action; June 28, 2012: 


The Affordable Care Act already benefits more than 100 million people including thousands of seniors, small businesses, women and children in Tennessee. Today’s announcement signals an end to constitutional debates and finally allows us all to move forward so Tennesseans can get the quality, affordable health care we need.

The decision also means relief and peace of mind for the people of Tennessee who were already benefitting under the law and are now protected from the worst abuses of the insurance companies. There is no doubt that he Affordable Care Act brings unprecedented transparency and oversight to the insurance industry.

Insurance companies can no longer deny care due to pre-existing conditions. 

As of April 2012, 1,191 previously uninsured residents of Tennessee who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. []

Insurance companies can no longer jack up our rates whenever they please. Small businesses and families will no longer pay higher rates for health insurance than big corporations. 

In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Tennessee has received $5 million under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases. []

Insurance companies can no longer place place lifetime and annual caps on coverage that could once again limit care (the real “death panels”) and drive families into bankruptcy court and kill their access to the American Dream (home ownership, college, etc.).

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits….The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014. (

The law protects working people and their families.

As of December 2011, 59,000 young adults in Tennessee gained insurance coverage as a result of the health care law.

Most important, the law protects working families from losing everything they worked so hard for because they are trapped in a cycle of medical debt or bankruptcy. Tennessee Citizen Action’s priority is, and will always be, to ensure that the Affordable Care Act, which includes these very important consumer protection provisions and more, stays intact for the people of Tennessee. We are grateful for today’s ruling.

Read additional statements about today’s decision from other organizations in the TN trenches:

Tennessee Justice Center

Tennessee Health Care Campaign

*FTW = For The Win!


Accountability. Since the day we passed the Affordable Care Act, we’ve faced delays, excuses and outright hostility from politicians at the state level. Now that the highest court in the country has declared the law is here to stay, we expect our elected officials to end their obsession with attacking the ACA and get to work on implementation.

Instead of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act state by state, they should work on fixing the economy, making health care more affordable and creating and keeping more jobs in the U.S.

Press Releases

TCA Opposes Bill Establishing Automatic Agreement to Insurance Policy Changes

Press Release from Tennessee Citizen Action, April 20, 2012:

Tennessee Citizen Action Asks the Haslam Administration and Their Department of Commerce and Insurance Why They Support a Bill That Will Erode Consumer Protections

Nashville, Tenn. (April 20, 2012) — Yesterday, the sponsor of a bill that would further erode consumer protection in Tennessee stated that the Department of Commerce and Insurance was aware of, and supported, the bill. The bill, SB2271 (HB2454) by Rep. Charles Sargent and Sen. Jim Tracy, states that a consumer or small business is bound to a change in their insurance policy by the simple act of paying their premium – either by check or by automatic bill payment. In other words, a consumer’s cashed check or automatic bill payment is enough to allow an insurance company to completely change their policy.

“The sponsor of HB2454/SB2271 said that the Department of Commerce and Insurance reviewed his bill ‘and they are very fine with this legislation…’” said Mary Mancini, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “Since the mission of the Department is to protect “the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight” and this bill would create an unfair financial advantage for insurance companies over consumers and small businesses, we would like to know why they are “very fine” with it.”

A vote on SB2271/HB2454 was rolled in the House until Monday, 4/23.

Amendment Summary: (b) The payment of premium for an insurance contract, or amendment thereto, by an insured shall create a rebuttable presumption that the coverage provided has been accepted by all insureds under the contract.

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization. Our mission is to work to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee

News NewsTracker

Reform v. Repeal; Mary & Co v. Mae & Co

A self-described consumer rights advocacy group held a press conference at the State Capitol Tuesday, during which its leaders called on state Sen. Mae Beavers to back off pushing one of her most cherished legislative initiatives.

Tennessee Citizen Action, a coalition of activists, progressive community organizers and union members, told reporters Tuesday they are trying to convince the Mt. Juliet Republican that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is really a very splendid, popular law that ought to be warmly embraced and even expanded, rather than unequivocally denounced as dangerous and unconstitutional.

TNCA Executive Director Mary Mancini said Beavers and other lawmakers rallying against national Democrats’ health care overhaul, like freshman GOP Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais, are “wasting time on issues that we really can’t do anything about.”

“Right now that’s not going to help the people of Tennessee who are suffering in this bad economy, who are suffering from high unemployment and are finding it difficult to feed their families because food prices are so high,” said Mancini.

However, the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee chairwoman indicated Tuesday evening that Mancini is the one “wasting time” with her attempts to convince her, Beavers, to betray core conservative constituencies and renege on key campaign promises.

“I’m running with the bill no matter what,” assured Beavers. “(Mancini) can still have national health care if she wants it.”

Beavers said her Tennessee Health Freedom Act does nothing to prohibit anyone from enrolling in government-run or private health insurance programs if they choose; it only seeks to insulate citizens against retribution from the federal government if they choose not to.

Beavers added that, in her view, supporters of the federal health care legislation passed last year  — and, in turn, present-day opponents of the effort to repeal ObamaCare — “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“They think it’s going to be free health care for everybody. Nothing is free. Somebody’s going to have to pay for it,” said Beavers.

In a press release issued last week, Beavers said “the health care law passed by Congress last year is ‘big brother’ at his worst.”

U.S. Rep. DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, has shown no recent signs of abandoning his promise to fight the Affordable Care Act either. Earlier this week he told WPLN radio that “people didn’t want government run health care in the nineties; they didn’t want it now.”

“So the bill needs to be repealed and then we need to go about finding common-sense reform in health care and in my opinion not necessarily replace it with a new bill,” he said.

Mancini says she understands TNCA faces an uphill battle in changing GOP minds. Nevertheless, they’re charging upward and onward, she said.

“Instead of using this as a political football, (Republicans) need to start listening to the people of Tennessee, to their constituents,” Mancini said. “Talking about repeal gets everybody fired up. It’s a big, sexy issue and it gets people talking about the repeal of this health care bill, Mae Beavers’ bill to do away with the mandate. Again, that’s not something we can do. That’s going to be decided in a higher court.”