Poll watching coalition wants audit of election

Friday, November 9, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 45

NASHVILLE (AP) - A coalition of Nashville poll watchers on Monday called for an audit of problems they documented with Election Day voting.

Tennessee Citizen Action organized the poll watching effort and its director, Mary Mancini, said that while some precincts were run effectively and smoothly, many were not.

The Election Protection Coalition command center fielded more than 600 calls reporting problems that included too few poll workers, poll workers who gave voters inaccurate information and polling places that ran out of provisional ballots and change-of-address forms.

In one case, a polling place at the Napier Community Center had more than 1,500 registered voters assigned to it. Long lines formed early while the five (and at one point six) poll workers struggled to keep up. But a polling place next door, the Napier Elementary School, had only 10 registered voters assigned to it, and the three poll workers there had almost nothi ng to do all day.

Davidson County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several of the coalition's 125 watchers said they ended up becoming unofficial poll workers to help the overwhelmed official ones.

Larry Sneed, who was at a polling place in North Nashville for about seven hours, said he assisted in filling out 20-25 provisional ballots because there were not enough workers. At another point, he was recruited to help operate the polling machines, when the sole trained operator became overwhelmed.

"I've never done it before. I'm not sure I was supposed to," he said. But he agreed to help out so that everyone could vote.

Several other watchers said the official poll workers were giving voters the wrong information and turning them away. For instance, several poll workers challenged voters' residency when the address on their photo IDs didn't match that of their voter registration cards. The photo IDs are supposed to be used to establish identity only, not residency.

Jane Mantey said a pair of young voters who were new to the district, but had registered, would have not been allowed to vote had she not been there. She said the pair brought in their photo IDs and voter registration cards but the poll worker told them to go home and bring a utility bill as proof of residency. Mantey intervened and the pair was allowed to vote after a call to the election commission.

Mancini said the Davidson County Election Commission failed in its mission of providing equal access to the election process so that all registered voters could exercise their rights to vote.

She said the coalition plans to ask state election officials to look into what went wrong on Election Day. Officials already are probing issues with electronic poll books during the August primary.