On Certifying Primary Election Results

Problems with voting in the Aug. 2 primary elections, notably in Davidson County, have led to calls from Democrats for a delay in certifying the results while an investigation. State officials have responded, observes The City Paper, that counties, not the state, certify elections and all 95 counties have already certified their results.
In the face of repeated calls for intervention, Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office has maintained that stance, citing the time constraints presented by the upcoming general elections and arguing that the job of certifying elections is delegated to and better done by the county commissions.
“People don’t understand that the state division of elections has a staff of nine people, out of 95 counties that they’re trying to assist,” Hargett spokesman Blake Fontenay told The City Paper. “So, they can’t be everywhere, and they can’t be the primary point of contact in trying to resolve issues that come up in elections. It’s number one, not their job, and two, not physically possible with the manpower they have.”
Asked if that fact leaves the door open for errors, or worse, in the electoral process, Fontenay argues that the door is supposed to be manned by the county commissions.
“Well, I think the safeguard is supposed to come at the county level,” he said. “That’s where it’s hoped that these kinds of issues would be picked up, and as we’ve said pretty consistently, they are the responsibility of the county election commissions.”
But officials at the county level assert that’s not entirely their responsibility either. Like the state, they cited time constraints and parsed the burden of ensuring fair elections.
State law requires the county commission to “meet no later than the third Monday after the election to certify the results.” After that, there is a five-day period during which candidates can challenge the results. By the fourth Thursday after a primary election, the state Coordinator of Elections — currently Mark Goins — must declare the nominees.

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