published Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

TBI investigating voter challenges in Rhea County

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into complaints about Republican challenges of some Rhea County voters seeking to cast ballots in the Aug. 2 GOP primary.

Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor requested that TBI officials look into voter criticisms about the challenges, TBI spokeswoman Kristen Helm said.

Helm said Taylor requested the investigation on July 19 “to investigate allegations against election officials for improperly challenging voters in a particular political affiliation when casting ballots.”

Describing the investigation as “ongoing,” Helm said agents will turn their findings over to Taylor to review and determine whether further actions are merited.

Taylor’s assistant, Will Dunn, said Taylor asked for the investigation following complaints that Republican officials invoked a little-used state law to challenge voters, at least some of them Democrats, from voting in the GOP primary. The election includes a heated contest between state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, and Republican businessman Ron Travis of Dayton.

Maxine Vincent, wife of Dayton Mayor Bob Vincent, said in an interview last week that she and others were challenged by Rhea County Election Administrator Theresa Snyder.

Vincent, a Travis supporter who acknowledged often voting for Democrats, said Snyder immediately convened a three-judge panel of Republicans, including Snyder, and said the challenge stood.

She was allowed to cast a provisional ballot, but Vincent said Snyder told her it would be “rejected.”

Snyder said her office and local Republicans have done nothing wrong and she welcomed the investigation.

"We feel very good about it," she said. "We explained [to the TBI] the statutes we were going by in the law book. We feel very good and feel very confident there will be no charges."

She said 10 voters with Democratic voting histories have so far been denied in their attempts to cast ballots in the GOP primaries.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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