by Steven Hale
Tennessee Citizen Action is calling for complete and independent audits of the Aug. 2 primary and the Davidson County Election Commission in light of problems with new electronic poll books used in the recent elections.
At a press conference this morning outside of the election commission's offices, TNCA executive director Mary Mancini said the electronic poll books had defaulted to the Republican ballot if a specific ballot was not requested, or if poll workers did not ask which ballot a voter wanted.
The electronic poll books, purchased earlier this year for $777,000, are being rolled out as Davidson County transitions away from paper books. They were used in 60 of the county's 160 voting precincts in the primaries earlier this month.
Among those who apparently received a Republican ballot by default were Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall and Juvenile Court Clerk David Smith.
In a letter to Davidson County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche, Hall said he was never asked by a poll worker which primary he wished to vote in and that he realized he had been given a Republican ballot once he was using the voting machine, but only voted in the county general election races. According to the letter, when he later called Tieche's office to report the error and request that he be recorded only as having voted in the general election, Tieche told him that the books were set to default to the Republican ballot.
In a statement, Smith said he experienced a similar problem but was able to get it corrected at the polls. He said his wife also experienced a problem regarding her correct polling location, but was able to contact Joan Nixon at the Election Commission and get the problem cleared up.
Mancini also relayed statements from two Davidson County voters who said they were given the wrong ballot as well.
"This is completely outrageous," Mancini said. "For any official ballot or any machine to default to any party is completely inexcusable. In this case it's defaulting to the majority party that's in power — also, inexcusable. But it would be just as inexcusable if it happened in the future with one of the other parties."
Tieche was not available for comment after the press conference.
In addition to audits of the primary and the election commission, Mancini said the group is also calling for the state to immediately halt the use of the electronic poll books.