When the polls open across Shelby County Thursday, Aug. 2, election officials will be watching closely in several areas for continuing election problems.
The problems began during the early voting period that ended Saturday with more than 1,000 getting ballots that had the wrong district races for the Tennessee Legislature and the U.S. House.
Robert Meyers, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission, said on election eve, Wednesday, Aug. 1, the extra measures are “to try to make sure that we capture correctly people’s votes, that we give them the correct ballot.”
That includes what Meyers termed a “plan B” in some precincts where earlier problems were corroborated during the early voting period.
“There will be a few districts in which we’ve done a little extra emphasis because of the potential number of people that are affected,” he said. “The general message will be the same across the county. Assume the voter is right and try to help the voter.”
Meyers also said the voter database blamed for the early voting problems was still being checked for errors and that work will resume after election day.
“The most correct thing to say is we stopped working because we had to transfer that data to the electronic poll book,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen denied any part in an election eve mailer that began showing up Thursday in mail boxes in State House District 93.
Cohen says the mailer makes it appear he is endorsing G.A. Hardaway in the Democratic primary between Hardaway and Mike Kernell when he is not.
“I wholeheartedly support Rep. Mike Kernell’s re-election,” Cohen said by phone from Washington D.C. at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at his Memphis campaign headquarters. “I probably talk to Mike more than any other person in Nashville.”
Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy also said the campaign mailer, which doesn’t list an organization sponsoring it, is wrong in suggesting he endorses Hardaway.
“He is one of the people primarily responsible for me being in politics.” Mulroy said of Kernell who is the second longest serving member of the Shelby County delegation to Nashville after Lois Deberry.
Cohen recalled working in Kernell’s first campaign for the legislature in 1974 when Cohen was a clerk at the Burch, Porter & Johnson law firm.
Hardaway and Kernell are running against each other in a primary race that is fallout from this year’s redistricting of the Tennessee legislature. Hardaway’s district was combined with that of fellow Democratic incumbent Barbara Cooper. But Hardaway chose instead to challenge Kernell.
District 93 is where voter complaints began and continue about early voters who got ballots that had the wrong district race in them.
Neither Cohen nor Mulroy specifically condemned Hardaway for the misleading mailer.
“Anger is not the right word,” Cohen said. “Some people think all is fair in love and war and politics. I don’t think that’s fair in love or war either.”
Kernell said it was a case of “a little too much liberty in the literature.”
“That was an error of some kind,” he said before pointing to a part in the mailer in which Cohen is quoted as saying Hardaway is Cohen’s “go-to guy” in Nashville.
“There’s no one go-to person,” Kernell said. “That’s kind of an insult to actually say that.”
Because of the unusual incumbent-on-incumbent match-up in the District 93 primary, the Thursday results in that and two other similar Democratic legislative primaries could be close – close enough that the early voting problems could put enough votes in doubt for some kind of challenge.
Asked about the possibility of such a challenge earlier this week, Kernell said he wasn’t interested in talking about the possibility at least for now.