Four days after the Davidson County Election Commission fired its top administrator, the State Election Commission accepted the final version of the blistering review that led to his termination, reports The Tennessean. The panel approved State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins’ report with little discussion Monday afternoon. Chairman Kent Younce said he didn’t see “any useful purpose” in dissecting the report after the Davidson County Election Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to fire Election Administrator Albert Tieche.
Goins made a few changes to his draft of the report but still found “an unacceptable pattern of serious errors” throughout the 2012 election cycle, which “led to an erosion of confidence” in Davidson County’s election operations.
The review found problems with legal notices, sample ballots, voting technology, staffing at polling places and other practices. It criticized Tieche for failing to open early voting for the presidential preference primary on a Saturday, a mistake the State Election Commission reprimanded him for a year ago.
Goins noted that the Davidson County Election Commission “has acknowledged ‘various irregularities or mistakes’ in its response to this review.”
Albert Tieche is out at the Davidson County Election Commission, and Commissioner Jim Gotto announced he will be leaving as well, reports The City Paper. After a heated meeting where tempers where high and accusations flew, the commission voted 4 to 1 to fire Tieche from his post as administrator of elections. The decision follows a highly critical report from the state, detailing numerous problems with the execution of elections over the last year.
Before the vote, Gotto — a newly appointed Republican commissioner — accused Chairman Ron Buchanan of “fast-tracking” the process, and harboring a “deep personal bias” against Tieche. Gotto will remain on the commission through July 31, or until state Republicans can find a replacement.
“You’ve lost my respect and my trust,” Gotto told Buchanan, to loud applause from a room full of Republican activists who shared his displeasure with the chairman.
Both Tieche and Gotto left the meeting without comment.
Tieche appeared to be in trouble from the minute the meeting was called to order. As the crowded hearing room of reporters, activists, and a couple of Metro Council members looked on, a clearly agitated Buchanan began a lengthy statement by addressing the stream of mean emails he had received in recent weeks, some of which he said may have even crossed the line into being criminally threatening.
He also denied the rumors in those emails that he had been appointed with a directive to fire Tieche. In fact, he said, the only directive he and the other new commissioners received, aside from carrying out the duties of the commission, was to stay out of the headlines. Buchanan acknowledged that they had “failed miserably” at that goal.
The chairman went on to summarize a number of problems cited in state Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins’ review of the commission, including failure to open on a Saturday during early voting, understaffed and under-resourced polling places, inadequately trained poll workers, and issuing conflicting reports regarding voter participation to the state. Along the way, Buchanan rejected just about every defense Tieche had offered for the failings.
Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche survived to work another day after enduring sometimes testy questioning by his bosses, who took a scathing state review to heart but decided not to discipline him after a nearly five-hour meeting on Friday, according to The Tennessean. Tieche still could face a tough road if state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, the author of the draft review, moves to decertify him once Goins presents his final report to state election commissioners next month. Through a spokesman, Goins declined to comment Friday night.
The five Davidson County election commissioners decided to respond to Goins’ review in the way that Metro attorneys advised — by acknowledging about a dozen errors and issues and succinctly saying how they’d try to avoid repeating them. They did not adopt Tieche’s much longer, more personal and sometimes feisty response to Goins, though the administrator and his own attorney, Art McClellan, said they might still submit it to the state.
Ron Buchanan, the election commission’s chairman and one of four new members, said any decisions about Tieche’s future would come later. Buchanan and other election commissioners dodged questions about their confidence in Tieche’s ability to conduct fair elections.
“There’s going to have to be some mending of fences and changes of procedures to restore voter confidence,” said Buchanan, a Republican.
“We’re going to move forward,” said A.J. Starling, a Democrat.
In a document longer than the review that prompted it, Tieche contested virtually every charge made by Goins. He wrote that the review “focuses on fault and blame rather than fostering improvement.”
“A casual review of the draft report would cause one to conclude that it is written to be personal in nature.”
For example, where Goins said the election commission’s use of faulty technology in some precincts in the August primary was “shocking” and that it could have influenced the outcomes of two House races, Tieche took offense at the use of that term and said there were just 106 voter history errors out of more than 12,000 votes cast with the technology.
Tieche also said that he took “great exception” to Goins’ claim that disciplinary actions against employees who talked to state investigators in late January had been backdated to December so they wouldn’t appear retaliatory. “That is a direct attack on my character,” he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche has hired an attorney to help him respond to a report on the commission’s management of last year’s elections.
Problems included failing to open the polls on a Saturday during early voting; machines that sometimes defaulted to the Republican ballot during the primary; and shortages of poll workers, printed forms, parking and phone lines on Election Day.
Tieche told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/11wT1xK) a draft of the state’s report frequently focuses on him. He declined to make it available, saying it’s not a public record until he and the commission have a chance to respond.
Tieche said he didn’t think the state had ever examined any county in that way.
All three Republican commissioners and one of two Democrats were replaced by state lawmakers recently after the commission considered a plan to investigate the citizenship status of all foreign-born voters.
The new commission met for the first time on Friday, and Tieche revealed that he had hired a lawyer at that meeting.
Some commissioners seemed to be caught off guard by that admission, since the Metro Law Department regularly advises the agency. The commission ultimately voted to require Tieche and his attorney to run their response by Metro attorneys before sending it to the state.
Metro Nashville conducted its own audit of the commission recently. The city found some problems but concluded that the agency has controls in place to ensure the integrity of elections.
In a sign that the apocalypse could occur on schedule this December, the Chattanooga TFP says, Republican Robin Smith and Democrat Albert Waterhouse have together formed a new consulting agency, SmithWaterhouse Strategies. Smith, a Republican strategist (and former state Republican chairman) who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2010, will maintain her focus on project management, while Waterhouse — a staunch Democrat and well-known political consultant — will continue his work in public relations and crisis management.
The difference is that now, they’ll be working toward the same goals.
“Regardless of how we feel personally, you cannot get things done without bringing all options to the table,” Waterhouse said.
Smith agreed with her political opponent.
“Congress should take heart if two partisan nemeses in Chattanooga can come together,” she said Tuesday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Four members of the Metro Nashville Council will ask that the city withhold $400,000 for more electronic poll books after a several prominent Democrats were given Republican ballots in the primary.
County Administrator of Elections Albert Tieche has admitted there was a problem with the electronic poll books that were used in some precincts to check in voters but he denies that the problem was widespread.
He says there were generally more Republican ballots given out in precincts that used the old paper poll books than at those using the new electronic ones.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/O8N3N0) reports that Democratic leaders in the state Legislature are citing their own set of figures to show the problem was widespread. They say that 19,714 voters used a GOP ballot this year, compared to an average of about 5,800 in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 August primaries.
Party leaders asked the state not to certify the election results until the issue was studied.
The electronic poll books were used in 60 of Nashville’s 160 precincts during the primary. Tieche wants to roll them out for all precincts during the general election in November, but state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has not yet said whether he will approve it.
If Councilwoman Megan Barry has her way, though, the question could be moot. She wants to withhold funding for additional electronic poll books until there is an audit of the process used in the Aug. 2 elections. Council members Lonnell Matthews, Jerry Maynard and Ronnie Steine have joined that call.
Davidson County’s election administrator was formally reprimanded by state officials Monday for failing to open the polls on a Saturday during the early voting period for the March 6 presidential primary, reports The Tennessean. But the State Election Commission decided not to pursue further disciplinary action against Albert Tieche after he acknowledged his mistake without a fight and said he had not intended to break state law. The commission could have gone so far as to decertify Tieche as an election administrator if it had voted to proceed with a “show cause” hearing, but that wasn’t likely to happen until February, after the state gets through this year’s primary and general elections.
None of Tennessee’s 94 other counties closed their polls on Feb. 18, the first Saturday of the early voting period, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said. That fell on the Presidents Day holiday weekend, and Tieche said he and his staff thought they didn’t have to open then, based on historical precedents.
But Tieche’s decision ignored the schedule his own bosses on the Davidson County Election Commission had agreed to in October, Goins said.