Metro Council members are proposing to withhold $400,000 that the Davidson County Election Commission hoped to use to purchase additional electronic poll books until an audit examines the most recent election process.
The move, which requires an amendment to a council resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting, is the latest in the fallout over the Aug. 2 election, in which multiple Davidson County elected officials say they were never asked which primary they wished to vote in, but were given a Republican ballot nonetheless.
“I have been in contact with the administer of elections, and he maintains that there is no problem with the new electronic polling books,” At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry wrote in a letter to council colleagues, referring to Albert Tieche, the county’s elections administrator. “He and I respectfully disagree.”
Tieche, citing efficiency and accuracy of the tool, rolled out new electronic books at 60 voting precincts during the Aug. 2 election as a trial run, of sorts, with plans to use them at all 160 precincts during the upcoming Nov. 6 election.
Dollars for the electronic poll-book expansion were to come from Metro’s “4 percent fund.” A resolution outlining $8.75 million in these expenditures for the purchasing of Metro equipment and building repairs is set for council consideration Tuesday. But Barry and several co-sponsors have filed an amendment that would strip the election commission’s $400,000 allotment.
According to Barry, council members Lonnell Matthews Jr., Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Sherie Weiner, Erica Gilmore, Karen Johnson and Carter Todd have also agreed to sign on as co-sponsors.
Barry and allies have called for an internal Metro audit to “make sure that all voters, regardless of their party, have confidence in the voting process and the technology being used.
“At the completion of the audit and after any recommended action items from the audit are implemented, we would look forward to working with the election commission to appropriate the funds at that time,” Barry wrote.
On Wednesday, Tennessee’s Democratic leadership demanded that the secretary of state postpone certification of August’s election results until it outlines a process that identifies voters who were defaulted to the Republican primary.
But the secretary of state’s office, in a statement Thursday that referred to a recent deputy attorney general opinion, said: “The counties, not the state coordinator of elections, certify election results.”
Tennessee Citizen Action, an advocacy group that brought the ballot issue to light, has maintained the state, in fact, has this authority.
A letter penned by Democratic Sens. Jim Kyle and Lowe Finney and Reps. Craig Fitzhugh and Mike Turner on Wednesday pointed out the August election saw a massive 350 percent bump in Republican primary voters, compared to a 27 percent increase in Democratic primary voters.
“Frankly, it doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” they wrote in a letter to the secretary of state’s office. “It certainly occurs to us and to most reasonable people that the increase could be due to the use of the machines that defaulted to the Republican primary.”
During the most recent August election, 19,714 Davidson County citizens voted in the Republican primary, compared to 6,439 four years before.
But Tieche, in a statement to reporters, said only 4,876 of these Republican primary voters used electronic poll books. The majority use traditional paper poll books.
“Voting machines in Davidson County have NEVER, nor will they ever, automatically display the primary ballot of any political party when the voting machine is activated for use enabling a voter to cast his/her ballot in an election,” Tieche wrote.
“The maker of the Electronic Poll Book has corrected the equipment’s programming to prevent the highlighting of any political party primary prior to the voter orally declaring his/her primary ballot preference to the poll official,” he added.
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