published Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Senate candidate Greg Vital's campaign faces voting complaint

An official complaint has been filed with the U.S. attorney’s office accusing state Senate candidate Greg Vital’s campaign of voter tampering and potential fraud.

The complaint was filed by Colby Knecht, president of the Hamilton County Young Democrats, and Paul Smith, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Knecht and Smith accuse workers for Vital’s campaign of picking up predominantly black citizens from inner-city locations and escorting them into and out of early voting locations, according to their complaint letter, which was written by Knecht.

Voters were watched as they picked ballots and were encouraged to pick Republican ballots, according to the complaint.

Knecht wrote that he spoke with the Hamilton County Election Commission and was told “any persons who had entered behind the African-American voters that were being (and already had been) escorted into the voting precinct were asked to leave once the problem had been brought to their attention.”

However, election commission officials say they have not removed people from Hamilton County voting areas.

“We’ve voted a lot of people but we haven’t had any issues at all,” said Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator of elections for Hamilton County. “We haven’t removed anyone. We haven’t had to ask anybody to leave.”

The complaint was filed in part because of a lack of information from the election commission, Knecht wrote.

“These are citizens that should not be taken advantage of for political gain by the powers that be,” he wrote. “This is a nonpartisan issue, it is only part of a chain of events in Tennessee politics that has caused the news media all over this country to point toward voter suppression and intimidation. Fair elections require cooperation and transparency, and the Election Commission in Hamilton County has failed to stand up to our request for more information.”

Knecht and Smith will meet with U.S. Attorney William C. Killian to discuss the complaint today.

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