It turns out Shelby County isn’t the only county in the state with election problems lingering from the Aug. 2 balloting.
Nashville-Davidson County has a problem with electronic poll books that led to some voters there getting the right district races but the wrong primary ballots.
Davidson County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche has acknowledged, according to The Tennessean newspaper, that the poll books, which were used at some but not all election day polling places had a default setting. The setting pulled up the Republican primary ballot if polling place workers didn’t act to indicate the voter wanted to vote in the Democratic primary.
Democratic leaders in the both houses of the Tennessee legislature, including State Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, sent a letter to Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state elections coordinator Mark Goins asking the state not to certify the August primary election results which have already been certified by the Davidson County Election Commission. The state process involves a basic formal announcement of who the nominees from both parties are for the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Democratic legislative leaders contend the poll book default caused a leap in turnout in the August Republican primaries for state legislative and Congressional seats in Davidson County from 6,439 four years ago to 19,714 Republican primary voters earlier this month.
“It doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” the letter from the Democratic leaders reads. “It certainly occurs to us and to most reasonable people that the increase could be due to the use of the new machines that default to the Republican primary.”
Tieche has told The Tennessean that he learned of the default setting on election day but couldn’t fix it because the vote was underway. Since then, he said the default setting has been changed.
The poll books are still new technology for Davidson County election officials. They only use them in 60 of the county’s 160 precincts.
The Shelby County Election Commission had a different poll book problem in the 2010 elections that drew complaints from Democrats and Republicans. A list from a previous election of those who had voted early in that election was mistakenly loaded into the poll books. The result was voters showing up on election day who were told they had already voted the ballot during the early voting period when they had not.
The mistake led to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe and a conclusion that the error was not intentional.
Back to Nashville, the Democratic legislative leaders made a brief reference to Shelby County in their call for an investigation there.
“Frankly, this whole affair is an outrage,” they wrote. “We have read in the press that the same machines being utilized in Shelby County do not default to any party. Why do they default in Davidson County, but not in Shelby County? Who made this decision?”
Meanwhile, political leaders in Shelby County are awaiting the state comptroller’s audit of Shelby County election results following different problems that led to more than 1,000 voters, by one estimate, getting the wrong district races on their Aug. 2 ballots because of redrawn district lines from the once-a-decade redistricting process that weren’t reflected in the Shelby County voter database.
Two lawsuits have been filed in Shelby County Chancery Court challenging the results in specific races.