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VOL. 129 | NO. 202 | Thursday, October 16, 2014

State Rolls Out New Election App

By Bill Dries

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Just in time for early voting, the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is out with a Smartphone app that can answer common questions from voters in every election about where they can vote early, the polling place for their election day precinct and directions to it and some of the districts they live in.

The free app, GoVoteTN, is available in the Apple Store and in Google Play.

And a quick test of it showed the districts listed for a voter were the U.S. House and State House and Senate as well as Shelby County Schools board district but not the voter’s Shelby County Commission or Memphis City Council district.

By contrast, the precinct locator on the shelbyvote.com website of the Shelby County Election Commission does include city and county districts as well as the other information.

The app includes a sample ballot that voters can mark with their selections to use as a guide when they go to vote and it links to election results via the Secretary of State’s website.

All of the information comes from county Election Commissions including election results which flow through the Shelby County Election Commission’s website, www.shelbyvote.com, to the Secretary of State’s website. That means that while the new app allows voters to watch election returns on their Smartphone, it doesn’t make it easier to get Shelby County election results in a timely manner.

The Shelby County Election Commission’s website routinely draws complaints on election night for the difficulty of navigating its election results section, which relies on a very old Java application that some computers and devices no longer accept.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s website has for some time been the best vantage point to watch the vote count in statewide races like the general election races for governor and U.S. Senate on the Nov. 4 ballot as well as the four referendums on proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution.

The sample ballot feature available with the app isn’t likely to replace the long-running political tradition of paid campaign workers who hand out early and election day voters hard copies of endorsement ballots just outside the 100-foot limit for campaigning at polling places.

Election officials at some polling places took a hard line on the paper endorsement ballots in the August election with reports by some voters that they were told to discard them because they were campaign material prohibited at polling places.

The Election Commission quickly corrected the error at those polling sites.

But the Smartphone app could make such a variance in polling place rules less likely.

Meanwhile, Tennessee voters are sporting “I Voted Today” stickers with a new look that includes the name of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and #GoVoteTN, which links to information about the app.

Hargett’s position is not an elected office. The Secretary of State is chosen by the Tennessee Legislature.

But Hargett has drawn some criticism for putting his name on the stickers that feature a new design similar to the state flag and move away from the American flag-themed background.

Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins defended Hargett’s name on the stickers, telling the Associated Press that it provides “accountability.”

“If people have questions or comments about how an election was conducted, they know who to contact,” Goins added.

The Secretary of State’s office decided to supply the stickers after several county election commissions dropped the stickers citing a need to tighten budgets.

Goins has defended the stickers as “the cheapest tool election officials can use to encourage voter turnout.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 25 45 144
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593
BANKRUPTCIES 24 120 581
BUSINESS LICENSES 14 65 264
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0