VOL. 127 | NO. 142 | Monday, July 23, 2012
Problems Hit First Week of Early Voting
By Bill Dries
As early voting began a week ago, Democrats and Republicans and those on both sides of the municipal school district issue had found common ground.
They had a general wariness that there might be problems with the balloting in advance of the Aug. 2 election day.
Some proponents of the municipal school districts posted advice on Facebook pages urging suburban voters to wait and vote early a few days or a week into the process because of the concerns.
Shelby County Democratic Party leaders in Memphis girded for problems with photo voter identification urging their base to make sure they had proper ID under the recent state law requiring such ID. That was even as they railed against the law and vowed to challenge it in court later.
The complaints began Monday, July 16, the day early voting expanded to 20 satellite sites including three in the suburban towns and cities voting on municipal school districts.
By Wednesday, election officials at a Bartlett early voting site were retrained, according to the Shelby County Election Commission. That followed problems in which Bartlett city residents in the same precinct as voters who live outside Bartlett got ballots that did not include the Bartlett ballot questions on forming a municipal school district. There was no distinction between those who lived within Bartlett and those who didn’t on the issue.
Early voting issues across Shelby County have ranged from Bartlett voters not receiving ballots with the municipal school district question to voters being listed in the incorrect district.
In Memphis, at least one voter in a state legislative district that changed around the edges in this year’s redistricting process showed up as a voter in another state legislative district. It took David Holt a day to verify for election officials with a map on a state of Tennessee website that he remained in the same district.
Holt’s problems began Tuesday, July 17, the day the Election Commission stopped posting daily early voting data on its website. That heightened suspicions that the participating voter list and data might show other voters had mistakenly voted ballots showing they too were in state House District 89 when they remained in District 93.
New participating voters list data was posted Thursday after two days with no data.
Meanwhile, the votes of citizens in the Lucy area near Millington on the municipal school district issue or in Millington elections for mayor and the Board of Aldermen will not count because the recent annexation of the area is on hold.
That’s what Millington City Attorney Barbara Lapides advised the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday, July 19.
Her advice came after last week’s quo warranto lawsuit filed against the city in Shelby County Chancery Court by attorney Claiborne H. Ferguson.
Ferguson, who is a homeowner and landowner in the Lucy area, filed the civil action July 11 to stop the annexation approved by aldermen in June. He claims in the suit that the aldermen took the action because without the area Millington would not have the minimum number of children – 1,500 – to form its own school system.
Confusion over whether residents of the Lucy area could vote on the municipal school district ballot question remained as early voting expanded to suburban voting sites including Millington’s Baker Community Center. With the question still in doubt even after Wednesday’s meeting of the Shelby County Election Commission, Carter and Lapides added a general item to the board’s Thursday agenda on the situation.
“The effect of the filing of that action is to suspend the annexation so that as of now and for the future, until that lawsuit is resolved, Lucy residents are not citizens of the city of Millington and are not therefore entitled to vote in any Millington election,” Lapides said.