Election Certified Amid Continued Complaints

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Election Commissioners certified the results Monday, Nov. 26, of the Nov. 6 election.

But they offered different verdicts on how the election was conducted.

“Overall we had a good election,” said commissioner Dee Nollner.

But commissioner George Monger contradicted her assertion that all polls across the county opened on time and election commissioner Norma Lester said during the course of Election Day she heard numerous complaints.

“I was inundated with calls,” Lester said, taking note of several citizens groups who were monitoring the polls for problems as well as the U.S. Justice Department.

Election commissioner Steve Stamson said the commission should list all of the problems from the November elections and get specific answers for what went wrong, giving priority to problems that are recurring from election to election.

“We can clean up some of these problems we are having,” he said.

The vote certification was delayed for more than a half hour as election commission chairman Robert Meyers conferred privately with election commission attorneys John Ryder and Monice Hagler.

After the conference and the certification vote, Meyers announced that plans by the commission to hold a closed meeting “to discuss HR concerns” had been cancelled.

The election commission met in a similar closed executive session in August and voted to suspend local elections coordinator Richard Holden for three days and put him on probation for six months because of problems with the August elections.

The commission didn’t disclose the action for another three weeks.

The commission also voted Monday to form an ad hoc committee to explore other voting technology than the touch screen machines now used in Shelby County.

“A paper trail is something a majority of the community is wanting,” Lester said.

Meanwhile, Ryder cautioned the group against any changes to the local policy against cell phones in the voting booth.

Some commissioners have noted voters in the last two elections are snapping pictures of their ballots and their selections on those ballots with cell phone cameras to verify who they voted for.

Ryder said most states either forbid cell phones entirely from polling places or permit them but forbid the use of cameras in cell phones.

He said changing that would violate state laws and raise concerns about the “possibility of unauthorized voter assistance” or “contamination of ballots.”

“It would really open up the voting booth to a wider public,” Ryder added, specifically raising the possibility of someone trying to photograph the ballot choices of other voters at a polling place.

He said the idea of someone snapping a picture of their own choices for themselves or to share with others is a different question but drew the same conclusion from him.

“I don’t know that we can stop that,” he said. “But no, I don’t think they have a legal right to do that.”