Council members seek to halt election poll-book expansion, call for audit

Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 5:16pm

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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Barry letter.pdf85.57 KB

9 Comments on this post:

By: rawhide on 8/31/12 at 10:22

Okay, assuming the accusations are true, these voters couldn't tell that they were "given" the wrong party's ballot?

By: Shadow63 on 8/31/12 at 11:11

Proves how uninformed our voters are. They just vote for a nice sounding name.

By: marymancini on 8/31/12 at 3:23

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 one party's ballot is the actual issue.

By: puddycat on 9/3/12 at 8:08

“ "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. "

Sounds like if there was a problem, it has been rectified. Perhaps this "critical" and costly audit has a more sinister and political motivation to it.

After all, this matter was revealed in the press several weeks ago and these council people had no problem at that time. No uproar or resolution was necessary then. But now on 8/30, only days before final resolution by the Council on 9/4, these people suddenly feel compelled to stop everything because they don't understand why so many people chose to vote Republican. I suppose it is a good use of taxpayer money to answer that question ?? What say you, councilman Tygard ??

By: marymancini on 9/4/12 at 7:19

This matter was revealed in the press a week ago, not "several weeks ago." Just an FYI. Also, it's not a matter of "so many people choosing" one party over another, it's that the voter had no choice.

By: Captain Nemo on 9/4/12 at 8:22

It appears that the Shadow is not that informed themselves.

By: puddycat on 9/5/12 at 3:16

ms mary,

When the council person raised this issue at the end of last month (4 weeks after the election), it was old news to me so I researched various media reports on the subject and found that on 8/15/12, this matter had been revealed in the media. However, as the media is so inclined to do, that report has either vanished or been "updated" with date changes and I cannot cite the exact source.

In any event, on the TNCA website, the timeline is well defined from the 8/2 election day thru the 8/9 date on Hall's letter thru the end of the month media frenzy that arose. Various links to Hall's letter support that. My question is, if the TNCA were such a wonderful "watchdog" for the consumers of the State, why didn't it jump on this early on instead of waiting until the last minute to coincide with the council resolution request. After all, this matter includes delaying of the certification of election results which should be among the highest priority items. Regardless of whether it was or wasn't aware of the matter, one can't help but wonder if the TNCA isn't less of a watchdog and more of a lapdog organization.

By: govskeptic on 9/5/12 at 8:35

How could any voter stand in front of a computer screen and not
know there's a problem immediately if what appears is only the
party they don't wish to vote for versus the one they do. We're
only speaking of the glitch in the Primary election. Certainly there
should not be a default to either party if neither is selected, but
if neither is selected one would think there would be no ballot
even shown for either party. Easy fix is available for this problem.

By: WayneR on 9/5/12 at 8:47

One fine day Ms. Mary Mancini nailed it:

MM> 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 one party's ballot is the actual issue.

Bingo.

PhiberOptik