Thursday, August 30, 2012

Metro Council Members Seek to Withhold Funding for EPBs, Call for Election Commission Audit

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 6:28 PM

As the debate over apparent voting irregularities in the Aug. 2 elections continues, several Metro Council members are seeking to halt the Davidson County Election Commission's planned rollout of additional electronic poll books until an audit can be performed, Joey Garrison reports.

On Monday, Tennessee Citizen Action announced that several elected officials had received the wrong ballots at the polls. They revealed evidence that the electronic poll books, which were only used in 60 of the county's 160 voting precincts in the August primaries, had defaulted to the Republican ballot if a voter did not request a specific ballot or was not asked by a poll worker which one they wanted.

Details from Garrison on the amendment filed by council members, after the jump:

Dollars for the electronic poll-book expansion were to come from Metro’s “4 percent fund.” A resolution outlining $8.75 million in these expenditures for the purchasing of Metro equipment and building repairs is set for council consideration Tuesday. But [Megan] Barry and several co-sponsors have filed an amendment that would strip the election commission’s $400,000 allotment.

According to Barry, council members Lonnell Matthews Jr., Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Sherie Weiner, Erica Gilmore, Karen Johnson and Carter Todd have also agreed to sign on as co-sponsors.

Barry and allies have called for an internal Metro audit to “make sure that all voters, regardless of their party, have confidence in the voting process and the technology being used.

“At the completion of the audit and after any recommended action items from the audit are implemented, we would look forward to working with the election commission to appropriate the funds at that time,” Barry wrote.

In a letter released Wednesday, state Democratic leaders noted a 350 percent increase in Republican turnout in Davidson County — 19,714 votes this year compared to 6,439 four years ago — and called on the secretary of state to postpone certification of the elections until the state could answer questions about the problems at the polls and who they might have affected.

But the secretary of state's office, referring to an argument made by the deputy attorney general in a recent lawsuit over the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, said that counties, not the state, certify elections. All 95 counties have done so.

Analysis released Thursday by Albert Tieche, Davidson County's elections administrator, seemed to show that the spike in GOP turnout was, at least, not entirely caused by errors with the electronic poll books. According to his data, there were 12,293 ballots cast at election-day precincts using electronic poll books — 4,867 were Republican and 7,185 were Democratic.

If any race were to be affected by would-be Democratic voters mistakenly receiving Republican ballots, it would be the House District 58 primary. In that race, incumbent state Rep. Mary Pruitt was defeated by Harold Love Jr. by a margin of just 41 votes. If Republican turnout had been unnaturally increased, thus diverting possible votes for Pruitt, one imagines it would show up in the heavily Democratic 58th district. And it wouldn't take much to change the outcome of the race.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. According to election totals from each of the individual precincts in the district, 626 people voted in the Republican presidential primary in March. If something were awry, one sign of it would be a higher GOP turnout in August than in March, when voters who mean to vote Republican would seem most likely to turn out. That would be irregular. But in August, just 254 people from District 58 voted in the GOP U.S. Senate primary.

Of course, that doesn't mean there weren't problems with the electronic poll books. It just doesn't reflect the type of irregularity that would have changed the outcome of that close race.

Here's the letter sent by Democrats on Wednesday:

Here's the analysis released today by Albert Tieche


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