Special master sought in missing voter files case

Friday, June 15, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 24

NASHVILLE (AP) - State elections officials and lawyers for Democratic plaintiffs in a voter purge lawsuit have agreed to ask a federal judge to appoint a special master to look into missing voter files.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/PbiZRQ) the request is being made as part of a lawsuit filed against the state by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, who says he was wrongfully kept from voting in the state's presidential primary in March.

Plaintiffs' attorney George Barrett told the paper that the two sides have agreed to ask U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp to appoint the special master to investigate claims that 11,000 voters' records contain partial or completely blank voting histories.

"We've asked the court to appoint a special master to investigate those facts and see what happened, if anything," Barrett said.

Barrett said the issue is important because state law allows officials to remove peo ple who haven't voted in the past two federal elections if they do not respond later to an address confirmation notice.

State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said he wants to dispel claims that anything unusual occurred.

"We are confident the histories are there and want the court to appoint a special master to show the Democrat Party's claims are unfounded," he said in a statement. "We want a third party looking into this because we know the truth and want to show Tennesseans nothing is wrong with our voter data."

Goins' spokesman Blake Fontenay added that state law prohibits purges of inactive voters within 90 days of an election.

Meanwhile, a separate federal lawsuit was filed Friday alleging election officials improperly declared candidate John Bragorgos ineligible to run for the state House.

The lawsuit says Bragorgos was certified in 2010 to make a Republican bid run Fayette County mayor and alderman in Somerville. But Goins directed that h e not be placed on the ballot as an independent candidate for state House and Fayette County school board this year over questions about his residency, according to the lawsuit.

Bragorgos lost his home to foreclosure and bankruptcy, but argues he never gave up his legal residency in the county. He is represented by East Tennessee law firm of Shelley Breeding, who has also been declared ineligible to run for the state House as a Democrat.

Breeding's property straddles the Anderson and Knox county lines, and Goins office determined that she should legally be considered an Anderson County resident. That position was upheld by a state appeals court last week, through Breeding has applied to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Davis filed his lawsuit in March after the former congressman and his wife were turned away from voting at their local precinct in the Fentress County community of Pall Mall after being told their names were not on the list of e ligible voters.

"If we're talking about a person's right to vote, those mistakes should not be allowed to be made," Davis told reporters after he filed the lawsuit.

Goins said at the time that the lawsuit was politically motivated by the former's congressman's 19-point loss in the 2010 election to Republican Scott DesJarlais.