published Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Some Sequatchie votes set to follow old district lines

  • photo
    Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Republican Secretary of State
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


Poll hours in Sequatchie County are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT, and polls in other counties west of Hamilton County open at varying times and close at 7 p.m. CDT. For more information, contact the Sequatchie County Election Commission at 423-949-2431.

Adding to election day confusion of road construction and the World's Longest Yard Sale, Sequatchie County, Tenn., voters in some districts must cast ballots today according to old district lines because of 2010 redistricting and overlapping County Commission terms.

A state attorney general's opinion on Sequatchie's election situation with four partial-term seats on the ballot affects races in County Commission Districts 1, 3 and 8 to fill two-year unexpired terms, Administrator of Election Linda Pittman Tate said.

"The difference in these races from the other races on the ballot is that these races, according to the state attorney general's opinion, will be run on the old 2010 district lines," Tate said.

"That means that only the people who live in what used to be these districts can vote for the candidates," she said. "Since redistricting took effect in 2012, this has complicated these races."

Wait, it gets worse.

So, District 1 voters will cast ballots for one of two commission candidates; Districts 3 and 5 also will have a portion of the voters who can vote in the District 1 race, she said.

Some voters in Districts 2, 3 and 4 can vote in the District 3 Commission race, while District 8 voters will see no changes, she said.

"This means that Districts 2, 4 and 5 will have two different general ballots on the voting machines," Tate said. "District 3 will have three different general ballots on the voting machines. [District 3] will have a portion of the voters who cannot vote for either district commission race."

One group of District 3 voters who used to live in the old District 1 can vote in the current District 1 race, and the other group who used to live in the old District 3 can vote in the District 3 race, according to Tate.

Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Tennessee secretary of state's office, said the Sequatchie situation is no rarity when seats are vacated in the middle of an elected term.

"I wouldn't say this is an uncommon way to treat this," he said. "Just by the fact that there are a small number of vacancies, it's a small number of potential cases where they can do this. And it's really a choice of the county as to how they would like to do it."

Fontenay and Tate said the standing County Commission made the final call on how to handle 2012 ballots, but using new district lines requires a resolution when unexpired terms are involved.

The state really has no preference on how counties handle their elections, Fontenay said.

"Our main concern is making sure everybody gets the right ballots, and we hope and trust that the appropriate safeguards are in place to make sure people get the correct ballots," he said.

Tate said it's vital that voters who have address changes to bring proper identification and proof of address because of this election's races.

Election officials also remind voters that a government-issued photo ID is required to cast a vote.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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