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article imageNashville, TN voting issues frustrate voters, concern officials Special

By Greta McClain     Nov 6, 2012 in Politics
Nashville - Several issues have been reported at voting precincts across the Nashville, TN area, ranging from voting machines not working, a lack of provisional ballots, voters being told to report to incorrect polling locations and voters being marked inactive.
Reports of issues at numerous early voting locations in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee had already been reported. The U.S. Department of Justice sent election monitors to Nashville after reports of poll workers being taught to challenge voters on the basis of their language skills surfaced. The 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or language group.
On Tuesday, "technical issues' with voting machines forced some voters at one precinct to use paper ballots. A technician was called and the issue was quickly resolved. A power outage at another location stalled voting briefly until backup batteries kicked in. A West Nashville precinct ran out of provisional ballots at 1:00 p.m. according to News Channel 5.
Mary Mancini, director of Tennessee Citizen Action, said:
"They're running out of change of address forms and people are being sent away. They're running out of provisional ballots. ... People are not being offered provisional ballots; they're just being turned away."
One of the voters that was turned away was Rudolph Johnson, a 30-year-old African-American. After being told by poll workers they couldn't find his name on the rolls, he was turned away. A Tennessee Citizens Action volunteer spoke with Johnson and helped him obtain a provisional ballot.
Digital Journal went to one voting precinct in a largely Hispanic area of Nashville. Approximately 20 people were interviewed as they exited the building. Eight of the 20 said they were told they were at the wrong voting location. Three of those individuals had letters which were sent to them by the Davidson County Election Commission. The letters listed the location they had just left as being the precinct where they should vote. Four individuals had the location listed on their new Voter ID cards. One elderly woman told Digital Journal:
"I have lived in the same house and voted at this same church the past 18 years. Now they are telling me I am at the wrong place. I passed my next door neighbor leaving as I was going in. She voted, why do I suddenly have to go to a new place. I was never even told my location had changed. I don't normally think this way, but I am beginning to believe they will do anything to keep the poor and elderly from voting. It's just not right."
When asked who "they" were, she responded:
"You know, I don't have to spell it out for you. I am sure they aren't making people in Belle Meade and Green Hills run all over the place trying to vote."
Both the Belle Meade and Green Hills areas of Nashville are primarily white, upper income areas.
Digital Journal went to another voting precinct in a racially diverse, low-middle to middle income area of Nashville. According to one election official who asked to remain anonymous, the main issue officials are seeing are people who had been marked as inactive voters. The official told Digital Journal:
"We have had an usually high number of people on our roll who are coming in to vote but are marked as inactive. Some claim they voted in the 2010 election, others say they voted in the 2008 election. One of them is a former co-worker of mine and I know he voted in 2008. I don't know why he would be marked inactive. According to election laws, if they voted in either of those elections, they should not be marked as inactive."
This Digital Journalist encountered the same problem at my precinct. I asked the election worker why I would be marked as inactive when I voted in the mid-term election in 2010. The worker said he did not have an explanation, but it was a problem several voters at the precinct had encountered. As I stood in line to speak with the Precinct Registrar, I began speaking with others in line. David, the gentleman in front of me in line, was an African-American gentleman who stated he too was listed inactive even though he had voted in the 2008 Presidential election. The two women behind me in line, also African-American, were also listed as inactive. One of them had her newly issued Voter ID card and letter from the election commission showing she had registered in May 2012 after moving to Nashville from Atlanta. She told me:
"How can they mark me as inactive when I just registered in May. Of course I haven't voted here yet, I just moved to Nashville a few months ago, but I registered two weeks after I moved."
An elderly gentleman in line said he has voted in every national election since 1960 and had no idea why he would be marked as inactive.
The unexplained deactivation of voters, confusion over where people should be casting their ballot and other issues had many voters frustrated and angry. It also has poll watchers and election officials concerned.
Mancini told the Tennessean:
“This is the worst election I’ve ever seen. “[The presidential election] is a large factor, but for the Davidson County Election Commission not to be prepared for this is inexcusable.”
More about Election 2012, 2012 election, 2012 presidential election, Nashville Tennessee, Voting
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