Machines Default to Republican Ballot in Davidson County

Electronic Poll Books————————————————–

[Citizen Action Press Release here, 8/27/2012]

It has come to our attention that the electronic poll books used in the August 2 primary election in Davidson County, TN, defaulted to the Republican ballot.

This is unbelievable and outrageous. No piece of any equipment that’s part of any election should ever default to one party or another, EVER. The fact that the electronic poll books default to the majority party is an egregious oversight by the Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC).

The electronic poll books replace the paper poll books and paper on which the voter chooses their ballot and are comprised of three parts – a tablet-device, a scanner, and a mini-printer. When a voter enters their polling locations, the poll worker scans their voter registration card or drivers license and the voter’s voting record is pulled up on the tablet. At that point, the poll worker is supposed to ask if the voter wants a Republican, Democratic, or General Ballot. The poll worker then chooses the ballot for the voter. The poll worker then prints out a piece of paper with the designated ballot on it and gives it to the voter. The voter takes the paper to the machine operator and the machine operator places the cartridge with the designated ballot in the voting machine for the voter.

It first came to our attention that there were problems with the August primary and the Davidson County Election Commission on the morning of the election when we heard from Davidson County resident, Ginny Welsch, that she and her husband were given different ballots even though they live in the same house.

A few days after we heard about another Davidson County resident, Karen Lawrence, who said [pdf] that when she and her daughter went to vote, her daughter was not asked which ballot she wanted and was automatically given the Republican ballot to vote on:

“My daughter, Brittany Lawrence and I went to vote about 6:30 pm…at our designated voting  location Ross Elementary School on McFerrin St in East Nashville. I had no problem with  registration however my daughter did. She presented her voters registration card and state  issued photo id to the lady at the registration desk. She took her info and imputed it in a  computer that looked to be the size of a netbook. We were asked whether we were voting democrat or republican and she answered democrat. Once everything was entered there was a receipt that printed out that had to be signed. After it was signed, she instructed my daughter to give that receipt to the poll worker that was at the voter’s booth. She took it and went to the booth and she verified with my daughter that she was voting “Republican”. My daughter answered immediately “no” I told that lady Democrat. My daughter was told to go back to the  registration table. The lady that made the error is the one she went back to. She had a difficult  time correcting the error so the other poll worker said that she could fix it.”

In addition, Ms. Lawrence overheard a conversation between poll workers:

My concern was that I overheard the two women who worked the registration desk discussing the error made on my daughter’s first receipt. The older lady who made the error insisted that she “hit Democrat” and that was the 2nd time it had happened to her today. The younger poll worker who ultimately corrected the error responded saying that you have to make sure because “the screen automatically chooses Republican and you have to select Democrat.”

A few days after that, we were contacted by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall who told us that he also was never asked which ballot he wanted and was automatically given, and then voted on, the Republican ballot. He found out about an hour later after speaking with Juvenile Court Clerk David Smith, who was also not asked which ballot he wanted, was automatically given a Republican ballot, but the mistake was caught by a poll worker who knew David was an elected Democrat.

When he realized his mistake, Sheriff Hall immediately phoned Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche to report the error. A few days after that, Mr. Tieche and Sheriff Hall spoke again and Mr. Tieche suggested that Sheriff Hall write a letter documenting his experience.

During this same conversation, Mr. Tieche told Sheriff Hall that yes, the machines do indeed default to the Republican ballot if the poll worker does not choose a ballot.

In additional to the electronic poll books defaulting to the Republican ballot, and poll workers not being trained properly to ask necessary question “Which ballot do you want,” there are other systemic problems within the DCEC. This timeline illustrates [PDF] the other problems within the DCEC:

  • Spring 2012: DCEC purchases Electronic Poll Books (EPBs) for all 160 voting precincts. Cost = $777,000
  • Thursday, August 2: Primary Election. EPBs used in 60 precincts. Sheriff Hall votes on Republican ballot, realizes error & calls Mr. Tieche.
  • Thursday, August 9: Mr. Tieche tells Sheriff Hall that the EPBs are set to default to Republican ballot. Sheriff Hall sends letter to Mr. Tieche & all 5 commissioners.
  • Monday, August 13: DCEC meeting in which Mr. Tieche says he is “pleased with success” of EPBs during primary and recommends that EPBs be used in all 160 voting precincts in General Election. The commission votes to deploy EPBs in all voting precincts in General Election.
  • Thursday, August 18: Secretary of State Tre Hargett & State Election Coordinator Mark Goins contact Sheriff Hall and request that Mr. Tieche explain by Thursday, August 23.

Today, Monday, August 27, Tennessee Citizen Action calls for the following:

  • Immediately halt of the use of the EPBs in any and all elections.
  • Complete & independent audit of the August 2 primary.
  • Complete & independent audit of Davidson County Election Commission.
  • The state must notify the TN Attorney General, District Attorney, and US Attorney ASAP to determine if this is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
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18 Responses to “Machines Default to Republican Ballot in Davidson County”
  1. Min says:

    So that explains what happened to me. I actually caught the fact that I had been defaulted into the Republican primary before I voted. I was pretty steamed about the whole thing then, and now I’m just outraged, since this has come to light.

  2. Lesia Latanation says:

    This is voter fraud in the purest of definitions. This must be stopped. This infringes on the voting rights of every TN voter.

  3. Mary Mancini says:

    Min, it’s ridiculously outrageous. You and all of Davidson County voters deserve and explanation.

  4. Mary Mancini says:

    Lesia -this is actually election fraud. Intentional or not, someone in power made a decision (to have the Electronic Poll Books default to the Republican ballot) that affected the fair and accurate elections of those who voted.

  5. Miriam says:

    I vote at Nashville State where the paper receipt was filled out by a poll worker when I checked in, but he failed to check the general election box in addition to the party box and I had to return to him after reaching the voting booth; the poll worker at the booth pointed out the omission and said that she had made that mistake herself during early voting. I was used to filling out the form myself in previous elections and was surprised that the poll worker at the first check-in table had not been trained thoroughly.

  6. Anon says:

    Ironic that republicans in Ohio are concerned about voter fraud. Well the cheater in a relationship always accuses first…

  7. pitboss615 says:

    I read read that the TCA sais the repubs rigged the election…I read it on the internet..its gottaa be true….really people..????!!!!!

  8. Mary Mancini says:

    Miriam – yes, we used to fill out the ballot application ourselves and we should go back to that system.

  9. Mary Mancini says:

    Pitboss, Actually, in a primary election, this problem where the electronic poll books default to the Republican ballot could have serious repercussions for both parties and who is on the ballot in the general election in November. Consider the close race of TN Senate District 18 where Haile lost to Coker by only 57 votes. How many of those votes were Dems who were given the incorrect ballot?

  10. Justwondrin says:

    This happened to me in Sullivan Co in 2004. As soon as the ballot came up on the machine, I went back and got it corrected.

  11. Alma Sanford says:

    We have some people who do not play fair who are trying to make it difficult or impossible for many citizens to vote. It is difficult for people with integrity to believe the lengths to which some self-serving people will go to thwart the voting rights of other citizens. It is extremely difficult to safeguard a Democracy and Mary is a great ‘guardian’ for us all. Thanks to TCA and to Mary for keeping a watchful eye.
    Alma Sanford, Antioch

  12. Cole says:

    Based on this post, the Republicans are in panic mode and will do anything absolutely possible to regain power. Their methods consist of Lies, Fear mongering, Cheating and Stealing! They have no realistic answer to their continued support of the wealthy because they are indebted to their wealthy donors and will back them in all circumstances in order to not loose their wealthy donors’ support. This democracy has become a plutocracy, whereby legislation is bought by the wealthy and sold to the highest bidder by those in congress (lower case mine) on both sides of the aisle.

  13. Ken Winter says:

    Mary, Like everyone, I have so many things on my plate that I can’t pay attention to this. What can I do to help get authoritative action on this?

  14. Mary Mancini says:

    Ken, The Metro Council is voting on a budget amendment this Tuesday to remove funding for the purchase of the remaining Electronic Poll Books set to be deployed in the rest of the polling precincts in November. Perhaps you can contact your Metro Council person as well as all five At-large members and urge them to vote yes on the budget amendement.

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  1. [...] by TN Press Release Center on August 28, 2012 Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 28, 2012:  [...]

  2. [...] Additional info: http://www.tnca.org/2012/08/27/machines-default-to-republican-ballot/ [...]

  3. [...] Background info: http://www.tnca.org/2012/08/27/machines-default-to-republican-ballot/ [...]

  4. [...] at the Davidson County Election Commission meeting. See, after deciding last week to NOT use the problematic Electronic Poll Books in the November Election, it came to our attention that the Davidson County Election Commission [...]



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