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‘Easily Avoidable’ Errors Cost 3K Shelby Co. Residents Their Votes: State Review

by Andrea Zelinski on October 2, 2012

Some 3,000 Memphis area voters’ ballots in the Aug. 2 primary were not counted because of “poor judgement and mistakes” by the Shelby County Election Commission, the state Comptroller’s office concluded in a report released today.

The review found that those Memphis voters were given the wrong ballots because election officials were slow to redraw district and precinct lines, as is required every decade to reflect population changes and ensure the districts represent roughly the same number of people. Oversight of the election administrator by the county elections board was nonexistent, and staff failed to quickly identify and correct inaccuracies, which were “easily avoidable and detectible.”

There was no pattern to the errors, the comptroller’s office found.

“Our review identified no discernible evidence of intentional misconduct or other actions intended to affect or influence the election process or election outcomes in Shelby County,” reads the report from Rene Brison, assistant director of the Division of Investigations for the Comptroller’s office, which audits state and local government agencies.

Still, the office failed to live up to its core mission.

“The primary responsibility of the SCEC is to conduct elections in Shelby County, yet SCEC has demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies, including those identified in the 2012 elections,” according to the report. The review was conducted at the request of Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

State elections coordinator Mark Goins called the errors “unacceptable.” Election results for Shelby County were certified Aug 20.

The redistricting errors in Memphis add to problems for voters this year, most notably in Nashville, where several high-ranking Democrats complained that their voting machines pulled up Republican primary ballots by default.

The Comptroller’s office has been looking into those issues for weeks, said spokesman Blake Fontenay, but does not expect to issue a formal report.

“We have been working with Davidson County officials to determine what went wrong and how similar problems can be avoided in the future,” he said.

The machines were programmed wrong, according to local election officials. The Davidson County Election Commission has decided against using the machines for the November election.


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