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NASHVILLE - House Democrats and Republicans traded charges Tuesday over questions by Benton County's election administrator on the voting status of 2,100 registered voters in the county.

House Minority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in a letter to probe what he later called a "witch hunt."

"I know firsthand that some of these voters have been registered to vote in Tennessee for more than 48 years," wrote Rep. Odom, who said he has also been told that 70,000 Memphis voters and 50,000 Nashville voters have been purged.

But Rep. Odom's assertions were challenged later Tuesday in the House State and Local Government Committee as the lawmakers discussed a bill that Rep. Odom has submitted to address the situation.

The bill says currently registered voters would be allowed to vote based on their signature, despite an original registration now considered "incomplete."

During the hearing, Benton County Election Administrator Mark Ward, a Republican, said his mailings were aimed at rectifying incomplete records he discovered when he took over from his Democratic predecessor.

House Assistant Republican Leader Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, charged that Rep. Odom was insinuating wrongdoing without having facts, calling it "the kind of thing McCarthy did in the '50s."

Despite the flareup, the bill passed.

State Election Administrator Mark Goins, a Republican, later said he welcomed a TBI investigation and characterized Rep. Odom's accusations as "political."

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