Official says Hamilton County voters treated equally during early voting

Election, vote, voting tile
Election, vote, voting tile

NASHVILLE - Hamilton County Election Administrator Kerry Steelman says county voters were treated equally regardless of race during early voting and will continue to be in today's election.

"No voter is treated differently, nor is any voter treated specially," Steelman, an appointed Republican, said Monday in a statement to the Times Free Press.

Several black officials last week raised concerns about scattered complaints from some black voters that poll officials appeared overly inquisitive about whether their required photo identifications matched their current addresses.

Such questions are to be expected and legal, according to the American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee and an attorney well-versed in election law. But they said persistent inquiries could pose a problem.

Steelman, who was unavailable for comment Saturday, noted Monday the county had four large voting sites to handle registered voters during early voting. It was servicing early voters who vote in the county's 130 voting precincts on actual election day.

"Each precinct has a unique ballot, meaning there are 130 unique ballots in a General Election and 390 unique ballots in a Primary Election," Steelman said in his statement. "Address verification is essential to [ensure] a voter receives the correct ballot containing the correct races for their respective precinct."

Because of that, he said, "we cannot make the assumption an address on a photo ID is the current address on a voter's registration. The most commonly presented form of photo ID is a Tennessee Driver's License, which for various reasons is frequently inconsistent with a voter's Registration Address."

Steelman said that, although state law requires notification of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security within 10 days of an address change, "there is no requirement for issuance of a new license."

Moreover, the election administrator pointed out, state election law allows use of a driver's license even if it's expired.

"As such, election workers are trained to ask every voter to confirm their current address is consistent with the address on their voter registration."

Outlining the process further, Steelman said that "after the address is confirmed and the correct ballot identified, an application is printed and the voter is asked to further verify the address printed on the application as a fail-safe measure to [ensure] the correct ballot is being provided."

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State's website, if a voter has moved from one address to another within the same county and his or her current address doesn't match the permanent voter registration, the voter must complete an affidavit before being allowed to vote. An attorney, meanwhile, advises they should also bring a recent bill, such as a power or phone bill, showing their new address to smooth the process.

The voter will be required to vote either at their new polling location or, in some counties, a central location designated by the county election commission office.

If you moved from one Tennessee county to another and didn't change your registration, you're out of luck. Registration in another county does not transfer to the new county. Voters have to register again and the deadline for that passed 30 days ago, according to the state Division of Elections website at sos.tn.gov/elections.

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