published Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Chattanooga Democrats air complaints about election

Shortly after the Hamilton County Election Commission voted unanimously today to certify the Nov. 6 election, local Democrat leaders presented the commission with a list of problems they said hampered voters at at the polls.

State Rep. JoAnn Favors gave a 10-point list of complaints involving “irregularities” at polling places and difficulties voters had casting ballots at particular precincts.

A number of issues stemmed from redistricting, with reassigned precincts and changed polling places. In many instances, Favors said, voters found their traditional polling places closed with no signs to direct them to a new location, or were met by poll workers who weren’t able to access the online database to redirect lost voters.

In several cases, family members living in the same house were assigned to different voting precincts, Favors reported.

Additionally, Favors said, thousands of people who had registered months before the election didn’t receive registration cards, or got them after early voting had started.

Favors also cited malfunctioning voting machines and effective poll workers at sites such as Alton Park, Woodmore and Ridgedale.

“Overall there were many, many issues. Not as many as we thought because many groups came together and we collaborated to ensure that people would not be disenfranchised,” said Favors.

Elections administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said that many of Favors’ complaints were valid and that she has made suggestions that the county move to a system where they have “voting centers” on Election Day, where people can choose where they vote regardless of precinct — like in early voting.

“We didn’t have one problem in early voting,” said Mullis-Morgan. “If we could work together, we could hopefully have this fixed. I’ve spoken with Ms. Favors and she’s open to working together on this.”

Mullis-Morgan added that the three voting machines that malfunctioned were bought in 1998 and needed to be replaced before the next election.

After Favors’ statements, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith gave the commission a list of recommendations, including an updated training manual for poll workers and separate phone lines for voter issues.

Commissioners said they would take the party’s concerns into consideration and give a formal response to their complaints by February.

According to election officials, the entire election cost taxpayers $280,866.

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