published Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Proposal for more Hamilton County early voting sites appears dead


by Cliff Hightower
A line of voters stretches around the corner of the building at the Hamilton County Election Commission during early voting in this file photo.
A line of voters stretches around the corner of the building at the Hamilton County Election Commission during early voting in this file photo.
Photo by John Rawlston.

The chairman of the Hamilton County Election Commission said this week he saw no need for any more early voting sites besides the ones already established by the commission.

"I don't see any justifiable reason to change what has been working for the past 15 years," Mike Walden said.

The Hamilton County Election Commission is set to vote on early voting sites Jan. 9. Two weeks ago, the Chattanooga City Council talked about asking the commission to open two additional voting sites beyond the three sites usually available.

The three normal early voting sites are the Hamilton County Election Commission office on Amnicola Highway, Brainerd Recreation Center and Northgate Mall. The council wanted more early voting sites in South Chattanooga and Lookout Valley.

But on the eve of a vote last week to ask the commission to establish the extra voting sites, Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan told the council there wouldn't be additional sites. She cited telecommunications problems, as well as possible favoritism in voting.

The council backed off the issue, and council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said this week it probably would be laid to rest.

"I think it's a closed issue," she said. "It's my understanding that it's their show."

State law states that the election commission is in charge of establishing the early voting sites and the city would be in charge of paying for those sites.

During discussions over the last two weeks, council members were preparing to try to establish the sites themselves.

"It's the election commission's responsibility to establish early voting sites, not the City Council," Walden said.

He said he thought it could confuse the public to shift early voting sites around instead of keeping those already established.

Ladd said she wouldn't pursue any more action before the Jan. 9 election commission meeting.

"When the vendor you use says they aren't going to do it, then they aren't going to do it," she said.

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