By Michael Davis
Some Hamilton County voters cast ballots in the wrong precincts during the May 2 county primary election, but election officials said the errors did not affect the outcome of any race.
County Election Administrator Bud Knowles said the mix-ups, which occurred at two voting locations with multiple precincts, were accidents by poll workers and involved no fraud or wrongdoing. Officials will use upcoming training sessions for poll workers to reiterate proper protocol in hopes of preventing future errors, he said.
“We don’t have time to baby-sit (poll workers), but it looks like we’re going to have to,” Mr. Knowles said. “They’ve been taught and taught and told and told, but you can only do so much when you’re dealing with 800 different (workers) on election day.”
The errors involved the Airport 2 and Airport 4 precincts and also the Summit 1 and Summit 2 precincts, according to an independent audit dated May 3.
There are three registered voters in Airport 2, but 17 people cast ballots in that precinct. For the Airport 4 precinct, which has 341 registered voters, no ballots were cast, according to the audit report.
Although Airport 2 and Airport 4 precincts vote in different state House districts, there were none of these races on the ballot in May, Election Commission employee Shannon DeFriese said. Voters in those two precincts cast ballots for the same County Commission district, so there could not have been a mix-up in that race, she said.
Another mix-up happened at the voting location for two Summit precincts.
There are nine registered voters at Summit 1, but 117 voters cast ballots for that precinct. Summit 2 has 2,257 registered voters, but no ballots were cast at that precinct, according to the audit.
The Summit mix-up allowed some voters to cast ballots in a city judicial race when they should not have, but those ballots did not influence the outcome of the race, according to the audit.
With both the Airport and Summit cases, Ms. DeFriese said poll workers likely were confused because both ballots looked the same, even though they were for different precincts. She said the election was valid and no voters were disenfranchised.
Ms. DeFriese said 25 of Hamilton County’s 98 voting locations serve more than one precinct.
She said 22 of the county’s 98 voting locations have multiple precincts that have more than one district designation for any of the following elected offices: state Senate, state House, County Commission or Chattanooga City Council.
Mr. Knowles said Election Commission workers instruct poll workers to keep ballots 12 to 15 feet apart when there are multiple precincts at one voting location.
State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson said claims of voters receiving incorrect ballots periodically emerge across Tennessee. Some allegations are proven to be true, while others are not, he said.
“Anytime mistakes like this are made, it makes people question the process,” Mr. Thompson said. “In this case, nothing happened that affected the integrity of the results.”
E-mail Michael Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org
25 of Hamilton County’s 98 voting locations serve more than one precinct.
Source: Hamilton County Election Commission