published Monday, March 14th, 2011

Polk readies for voter verification, redistricting

By Paul Leach

BENTON, Tenn.—A number of voter verification programs are in the works at the Polk County election administration office, including plans for an upcoming redistricting project.

The project, driven by 2010 census data, will launch this spring, Chairman Ronnie O’Neal said at the March election commission meeting.

“That will be a lot of work that will have to be put in,” he said.

O’Neal said the election commission will establish a point of contact with the county and likely appoint a committee to work with the County Commission. He said he expects work will begin in earnest in June or July, and the project has a Jan. 1 deadline.

In the meantime, the election commission office will launch a voter address verification program.

The office will send two notices to registered voters who did not vote in the two most recent November elections. If the election administrators receive no response, they may purge the voter from the county registry, acting Elections Administrator Melitte McCoy said.

The election commission also agreed to mail meeting agendas to its members no later than the Friday before its Thursday meetings, which normally occur on the second Thursday of each month.

Commissioner Mack York repeatedly has requested prior notification of meeting agendas and formally submitted a letter for action at the February meeting.

He also questioned the recent hiring of East Polk businessman and former election commissioner Steve Gaddis to the post of election office clerk.

York disputed the February minutes, which state the commission voted 5-0 to allow the acting administrator to employ office staff, with Commissioner Frank Payne making the original motion.

Instead, he recalled that Commissioner Freeman Curbow, absent from the current meeting, had made the original motion with the stipulation that the new clerk have qualified secretarial experience.

The commissioners agreed to table the issue until the next meeting after a brief but heated discussion.

“I’ve been a business owner for 25 years. I’ve served on the election commission twice,” Gaddis said after the meeting when asked about his experience.

Paul Leach is based in Bradley County. E-mail him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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