State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Wednesday that a “clerical error” by Pickett County election officials led to former Democratic Congressman Lincoln Davis being turned away when he tried to vote in Fentress County on Tuesday.
Davis had been voting in city elections of Byrdstown, which is in Pickett County, under a law that allows persons owning property in the city to vote in city elections. By mistake, Goins said, Pickett County officials treated that a general county registration and notified Fentress County election officials, who then purged Davis’ name from voter lists since his most recent vote was in a Byrdstown election.
“The clerical error has been corrected and Rep. Davis will be considered a resident voter in Fentress County and a property rights voter in Pickett County,” said Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the state Division of Elections, in a statement distributed Wednesday.
UPDATE: Davis said Wednesday evening that he still resents the Fentress County election administrator, a neighbor, not notifying him that he and his wife that they had been purged as county voters. “That’s ridiculous,” he said.
He said that Goins did urge him to cast a provisional ballot in their Tuesday evening conversation. But he said Goins and Joey Williams, the administrator, both said he should go to the precinct and first register as a voter, then cast the provisional ballot.
“They were asking me to break the law,” Davis said.
State law, Davis said, requires a voter to be registered 30 days before an election. A late registration, he said, would be a reason in itself to void his vote.
Davis also said he recalls that his telephone conversation with Goins came about 6:45 p.m. with polls closing at 7 p.m. Goins said he recalls that it was about 6:20 p.m. Davis said his home is about a 10-minute drive from the voting precinct.
Note: Fontenay’s full statement is below.
Statement from Blake Fontenay, Communications Director for Comptroller, Treasurer and Secretary of State
The Tennessee Division of Elections has reviewed the issue regarding former Rep. Lincoln Davis. We have concluded that due to a clerical error, Rep. Davis appeared on the voter registration rolls as a resident voter in both Fentress and Pickett counties at one point in time.
He was purged in Fentress County because a voter is not permitted to be a resident voter in two counties at the same time. Rep. Davis had been voting as a property rights voter in the Pickett County town of Byrdstown while also casting ballots as a resident voter in Fentress County. However, he was mistakenly identified as a resident voter in Pickett County. We are told he has a home in both counties. However,
Rep. Davis considers Fentress County his main residence. The clerical error has been corrected and Rep. Davis will be considered a resident voter in Fentress County and a property rights voter in Pickett County.
It should be noted that both the Fentress County Administrator of Elections and the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections advised Rep. Davis that he should cast a provisional ballot on Tuesday so his vote would count if the issues related to his registration could be resolved. However, Rep. Davis chose not to do so. Rep. Davis did have time to vote a provisional ballot. In dealing with millions of voters it is understandable errors may occur. However, we offer a sincere apology to Rep. Davis.