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VOL. 129 | NO. 12 | Friday, January 17, 2014

Official: FBI to Interview Election Administrator

ADRIAN SAINZ | Associated Press

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MEMPHIS (AP) – The FBI has told Shelby County Election Administrator Richard Holden it wants to speak with him and six other election workers about how they complete their job responsibilities, an official said Thursday.

Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers said Holden told him about the FBI's interest in interviewing him and other workers. Meyers said he did not know exactly why the FBI would want to speak with Holden, the subject of criticism from elected officials.

Meyers said he assumes the FBI believes it has some basis to investigate. FBI officials visited the county election offices Wednesday, Meyers said.

"To my knowledge, no employee or Mr. Holden has done anything illegal that certainly I'm aware of and I would expect any investigation would confirm that," Meyers said.

Holden did not return calls seeking comment. The FBI declined comment.

The Commercial Appeal first reported about the FBI seeking to interview Holden earlier Thursday.

Holden, who was suspended in September 2012 for problems with an election that year, has received votes of "no confidence" from the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission. He also has been criticized by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, who says he wants Holden removed.

Problems with elections in Shelby County, which includes Memphis, date back years.

An internal Shelby County government draft audit report released in August said officials failed to process dozens of voter registration applications between March 2012 and January 2013.

The audit had 19 findings, seven of them ranked "high" in terms of potential risk to the commission's operations. One of the high-rated findings involved the commission's cash-receipting process. The audit also said improper documentation made it impossible for auditors to identify election employees who processed or changed some voter registration records.

A report released in November by Meyers conceded there were problems but emphasized those problems were corrected.

In October 2012, Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said poor planning and mistakes with the redistricting process led to ballot problems during the Aug. 2, 2012 election in Shelby County. Wilson said the administrator of elections failed to complete updates to legislative district boundaries to reflect redistricting in time for all ballots for the election to be correct.

Voter difficulties cropped up during early voting and on election day on ballots that contained party primaries, local general elections and referendums on the creation of municipal school districts.

An estimated 3,200 voters received ballots from the wrong district, and their votes were not counted.

The problems led to a three-day suspension and six months' probation for Holden.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins requested Wilson's investigation. In their letter to the comptroller, Goins and Hargett said public confidence in the Shelby County vote had been eroded due to a string of problems dating back to 2005.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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