Rep. JoAnne Favors and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith both outlined a number of problems they said occurred at the Nov. 6 election.
Both spoke at the Tuesday morning meeting of the Election Commission.
They asked that the problems be addressed prior to the March city election.
Chairman Mike Walden said they will be analyzed and any needed corrections made.
Here is the statement from Rep. Favors:
Commissioner Mike Walden, Chairman Commissioner Jerry Summers Commissioner James Anderson Commissioner Ruth Braly Commissioner Tommy Crangle
Tennessee was reported to be among seven states that enacted the most stringent photo identification laws in the nation. Since this action was perceived by many Tennesseans to be a form of voter suppression, several national and local groups collaborated to establish initiatives which optimized voter participation through voter registration, voter education, assistance with obtaining photo IDs, transportation to the polls, and poll watching. These groups included religious and civic groups, sororities and fraternities, the NAACP, the Voter Empowerment Movement, the Hamilton County Democratic Party, and the Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition. We are convinced that efforts by these groups played a significant role in diminishing anticipated proliferation of voter suppression.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party (HCDP) and Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition (TVAC) provided training to poll watchers and election workers to assist voters and also oversee the voting process during early voting and on Election Day, November 6, 2012. Also, paid radio announcements instructed newly registered voters who had not received their cards to go to the poll and vote by showing their driver’s license with a photo ID.
This communication identifies several irregularities identified on Election Day which hopefully will not be replicated in future elections. I am requesting your analysis of these problems and would appreciate a written response from the Hamilton County Election Commission by February 1, 2012. Please note that I was in telephone communication with Mark Goins, State Coordinator of Elections, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry H. Piper throughout the day on November 6, and am appreciative of the level of understanding and support received from them. Some of the irregularities identified are as follows:
Election workers at polling sites had no online access to the voter data base and were unable to easily determine appropriate polling sites for many voters who had come to the wrong site. The HCDP and TVAC had individuals assigned to this function via Wi Fi and referred scores of voters to their assigned polling site.
There were several instances of family members living in the same household, yet being assigned to vote at different voting precincts.
Too many elderly citizens were unable to obtain photo IDs because they had never had a certificate of birth on file at the Department of Vital Statistics . School records were not accepted.
Many voters went to polls where they had previously voted for years and found them closed. No signs were posted at former polling sites redirecting voters to appropriate sites.
Woodmore 1 and 2 precincts were located at Brainerd High School. Precinct 1 is in the 28th Legislative District and 10th State Senate District; and Woodmore 2 is in the 29th Legislative and 11th State Senate District. After voters complained that certain candidates’ names were not on their ballot, it was noted that ballots for Woodmore 1 had not been opened and dispensed. The 44th ballot had been issued before this was noted.
All new election workers were assigned to the Alton Park precincts which created mass confusion and ineffectiveness. The police had to be called because voters were disturbed when voting machines were malfunctioning and voters were asked to wait outside.
The voting machine at Ridgedale precinct was malfunctioning for more than one hour resulting in lengthy voting lines and some voters having to leave before the machine was repaired.
Thousands of citizens had registered up to two months prior to the election, but registration cards were not mailed out until two days after early voting had begun and many newly registered voters never received cards.
It has been reported that proposed legislation is being submitted from the Election Commission which would allow voters to vote at any of eight polling sites on Election Days. While the concept of allowing voting at any polling site is commendable, eight polling sites will be wholly inadequate for accommodating voters in Hamilton County during Presidential Elections. If such a bill is proposed, it should not contain language that would place numerical restrictions on the number of polling sites and allow adjustments as appropriate for the election.
Many people tried unsuccessfully to contact the Hamilton County Election Commission office by telephone on Election Day. Contact had to be made by physical presence to the Election Commission office several times during that day.
JoAnne H. Favors
Here is the statement from Mr. Smith:
Hamilton County Election Commission
Attn.: Charlotte Mullis Morgan
700 River Terminal Road
Chattanooga, TN 37406
Dear Ms. Morgan:
Enclosed are recommendations from the Hamilton County Democratic Party for conducting and preparing for future elections:
I. Training Manual for Poll Workers
By January Election Commission meeting, Charlotte Mullis Morgan to present a printed draft of a Training Manual for Poll Workers for public review and review by representatives from both political parties. A hardcopy of this approved training manual should be placed at each polling location so that voters, officials and poll watchers may consult it during disputes. Manual should include strict guidelines for presence of uniformed and armed police only in emergencies and for the presence and behavior of citizens assembling outside the polling stations. A printed manual will help avoid much confusion and will result in better trained workers.
II. Printed Diagram of All Polling Stations
A printed diagram should be created for each individual polling station designating: (a) storage of both marked and unmarked ballots; (b) concierge, registration, ballot marking tables; (c) voting machine; (d) concierge, registration, and voting machine queues; (e) signs for each precinct queue; (f) accommodations and signage for handicapped; (g) area where poll watchers may stand so that they can both see and hear proceedings. Drafts of these documents should be publicly distributed for comment one week before February meeting of the Election Commission. This will help prevent confusion, inefficiency and fraud.
III. Concierge at Door of All Polling Stations
A concierge position should be created to check I.D.s at the door of each polling location equipped with: (1) computer loaded up-to-date with maps of roads in precinct, all Hamilton County addresses with voting location, and complete and searchable county register of voters, to allow the concierge to offer a provisional ballot option, or direct the voter to correct precinct queue in the building, or to the correct polling place; (2) hard copies of maps, addresses, and register of all Hamilton County voters; (3) printed directions to other polling locations from their present place. This gives the responsibility of directing traffic and providing provisional ballots to someone specific.
IV. Large Freestanding Signs for Queues
Large, freestanding signs in 72 point type, indicating queue location for each precinct and alphabetical divisions within that precinct, should be installed. This should greatly increase the speed of the movement of queues and voting in polling places with more than one precinct.
V. Separate Phone Lines and Staff for Individual Voter Issues
On election day, the Election Commission should have separate dedicated workers and phone lines for both: 1) issues of individual voter registration and, 2) general issues between poll watchers, poll workers, and election officials. This should correct the breakdown in communication between the Election commission staff and their field workers.
VI. Separate Polling Places for Each Ballot
Each ballot should have separate polling place so voters are not given wrong ballot. This means that there should not be more than one State Senate or State Representative District, County District, or City District at any given polling place.
Paul E. Smith
Hamilton County Democratic Party