VOL. 127 | NO. 146 | Friday, July 27, 2012
State Confirms Shelby Election Investigation
By Bill Dries
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett has called for the Tennessee Comptroller to investigate the Shelby County elections and state officials are moving toward the probe as early voting comes to an end Saturday, July 27.
State Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville and Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester of Nashville called separately Thursday for a state review of election results in Shelby County.
Each call was much different in tone than the other.
Norris, at a municipal school district rally in Arlington, Thursday, July 26, said he has asked Hargett to review election results as well as problems on several fronts voters have had during the early voting period that runs through Saturday.
“This is not a witch hunt. This is not finger pointing,” Norris said. “We need to know the process works.”
Forrester urged the same state officials to not only review balloting in Shelby County but across the state.
Forrester called for the review because Republican political leaders “have failed over and over again to protect our voting rights.”
“Their far reaching incompetence and mismanagement has completely undermined our elections and any shred of faith voters may have had left in the process,” he added in a written statement.
He cited early voting problems in Shelby County as well as concerns about the photo voter identification law that took effect in January and new districts in state legislative and Congressional races drawn by the Tennessee legislature earlier this year.
A review by the office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett would be the second by a state agency of Shelby County election procedures in three years.
An error at the commission in 2010 led to the wrong list of voters being loaded into electronic poll books.
The result was possibly thousands of voters being turned away during that year’s August balloting because the poll books showed some of those voters had already vote early. The confirmed cases of those who were affected included Republicans and Democrats across the county including then-District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.
Citing an independent investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Gibbons later concluded the error was an “honest mistake” but he added there was “a lack of training” in procedures by the election commission.
And he noted the problem could have been avoided if election officials had reviewed an audit report, taking about 15 minutes for a step that would have easily pointed to a difference in the number of early voters already recorded for the election underway.
Several of the candidates on the Democratic slate of countywide candidates, who got swept by Republican candidates in the 2010 election, reached a different conclusion and filed a Chancery Court lawsuit contesting the election. The suit was later dismissed.