Tag Archives: election

AP’s election day story on WIGS voting

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee voters in several dozen communities will decide on Tuesday if they want to buy wine where they purchase food.

Seventy-eight municipalities collected enough signatures to place a referendum for supermarket wine sales on the ballot, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Currently, wine can only be sold in liquor stores. But a state law that passed this year will allow it to be sold by grocery and convenience stores starting in July 2016 if citizens vote to approve the change.

“This is the last step for voters in these Tennessee communities who support the issue,” said Susie Alcorn, campaign manager for the advocacy group supporting the measure, called the Red White and Food campaign.

Only communities that currently allow package stores or liquor by the drink are eligible to hold votes as long as at least 10 percent of voters in the community signed petitions. For instance, in metro Nashville, organizers had to get 15,000 signatures.

The final determination will be made by a simple majority vote.
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AP’s Tennessee election day story

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander said Monday he’s not concerned about the margin of the outcome of Tuesday’s election — so long as he emerges the winner.

Alexander, who faces Democratic challenger Gordon Ball, was among the candidates and advocates making their final pitches on the last full day of campaigning before Election Day.

Alexander won the Republican primary against underfunded state Rep. Joe Carr by 9 percentage points in August, a result widely considered much closer than expected for an incumbent with a 40-year political history in the state. Alexander suggested that it was unfair to read too much into those results.

“In my political experience, anybody who wins an election by 5 or 6 percentage points has a good win, and if you win by 10 you have a massive win,” he said.

Ball, who has largely self-funded his campaign, has portrayed Alexander as out of touch with Tennessee voters on issues like immigration, Common Core education standards and his opposition to minimum wage laws.

Other races include Gov. Bill Haslam’s bid for second term, which has seen little in the way of organized campaigning by Democratic challenger Charlie Brown, and four proposed constitutional amendments concerning abortion regulation, judicial selection, banning a state income tax and allowing charitable gaming for veterans groups.

The first amendment on the ballot, which would give the state Legislature more power to regulate abortions, has drawn the most spending in the final weeks of the campaign and a steady barrage of television advertising.

In the final reporting period spanning Oct. 1 through Oct 25, opponents of the abortion amendment reported raising $2 million, mostly from Planned Parenthood organizations around the country, and spending $3.4 million.

The main group supporting the amendment reported raising $670,000 and spending $1 million. Meanwhile, a separate effort mostly funded by $500,000 from Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black and her husband, has spent $487,000 on direct mail to try to shore up support for the amendment.

Also up for election are all 99 state House seats and 17 of 33 Senate seats, though Republicans hold such vast majorities in both chambers that the results are unlikely to make a big difference in the partisan landscape at the state Capitol.

Tuesday also marks the conclusion for many communities of a multiyear fight over whether to allow wine to be sold along groceries in Tennessee supermarkets. Under a law passed this year, cities and counties that allow either liquor by the drink or package store sales can hold referendums on grocery store wine sales, and several dozen communities will decide on the matter on Tuesday.

Sunday column: Some election predictions (or speculation)

Predicting election outcomes is easy in some cases and impossible in others, but always a topic for obsessive debate and discussion among political junkies. Having engaged in several such conversations lately, here is a stab at sizing up some Tennessee contests in Thursday’s balloting from an old guy who’s previously been right, oh, about half the time.

The easiest one, statewide, is Bill Haslam in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Of course he wins. And the governor ought to be embarrassed with anything less than 65 percent of the vote against a field of odd and unknown opponents. OK, there are the YouTube viral videos of Mark “Coonrippy” Brown showering with a pet raccoon and Brown is first on the ballot, practically guaranteeing the bewhiskered gentleman second place, if not helping his chances for a reality TV gig.

But most votes the governor does not receive can be counted as a straightforward GOP voter rejection of his policies or persona. For real chest-thumping rights, Haslam needs about 85 percent. Then he could declare himself beloved of the GOP statewide and thumb his nose at those detractors bashing him on Common Core, being a wishy-washy RINO in general or whatever. Our governor isn’t the chest-thumping, nose-thumbing type, but he might be tempted at 85 percent or so. Prediction is that he won’t have to deal with the temptation.

At the other extreme, impossible to predict, is the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The only guy in the crowd with recognizably reasonable credentials is John McKamey, a former Sullivan County mayor, and he is strongly supported by Democratic activists who keep track of such things. But the situation is reminiscent of the 2012 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate when party activists backed actress Park Overall. She lost to Mark Clayton, whose name was first on the ballot and who was subsequently disavowed as a Democrat by the embarrassed party people because of “extremist views.”

This year, the guy whose name is first on the ballot is Charlie Brown. Brown likely has favorable name ID, thanks to the cartoon character. It’s a toss-up, but to make a prediction, McKamey by a whisker.

In the U.S. Senate Republican primary, it’s pretty easy, too. Lamar Alexander wins. The question is by how much, and he will have bragging rights if it’s more than about 60 percent. There’s a chance that Alexander could come in with a mere plurality victory over his field of opponents, most notably the tea party-embraced Joe Carr and George Flinn, the spender of well over $1 million in personal funds. Prediction: Alexander in the low 50s.

The U.S. Senate primary presents a contrast between Terry Adams, an idealist Democrat with little money and loved by every party activist who listens to him, and Gordon Ball, a pragmatic Democrat with lots of money who is tolerated by every party activist who listens to him. The guess here is that pragmatism — and money — prevails.

The real head-scratcher, statewide, is the Supreme Court retention election. As Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey recognized early on, the stage was set for unseating, via hard-ball politics, the three justices appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. But the Supremes, while disavowing politics in the court system, have waged a very smart political campaign — they’re all for Second Amendment gun rights and the death penalty, you know — since Ramsey alerted them to what was coming.

The question here is, who was listening? The anti-Supremes’ effort seems, perhaps surprisingly, almost anemic, focused on shouting “they’re liberal Democrats!” Lawyers and friends were listening, forming a voting bloc to offset the traditional third of voters who vote “no” on judge retention in most such elections.

Was the GOP’s right wing listening to the anti-Supremes? Not sure, but the suspicion is that the Supremes will be retained, though it will be close. (Maybe close enough that there’s a split. Chief Justice Gary Wade may well lead Justices Sharon Lee and Connie Clark in collecting retention votes — just as he has led in collecting money.)

Two incumbent congressmen, Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleishmann, are at risk of being unseated. The guess: DesJarlais loses by five points or so; Fleishmann wins by a similar margin.

In legislative primaries, about six incumbents are probably underdogs, including Knoxville’s Sen. Stacey Campfield. In that one, I just tried flipping a coin: heads, Richard Briggs; tails, Campfield. It came up heads.

Other legislative incumbents in the coin-flipping category include Democratic Sen. Ophelia Ford and Republican Sen. Mae Beavers, along with Republican Reps. Matthew Hill, Micah Van Huss, Tony Shipley, Steve Hall, Mike Sparks and Vance Dennis

And it’s a safe prediction that there will be a couple of surprises.

Note: This is a slightly expanded version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel. The edited version is HERE.

TN Election Officials to Review U.S. Supreme Decision

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee election officials plan to review a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says states can’t demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections unless they get federal or court approval to do so.
The justices’ 7-2 ruling on Monday complicates efforts in Arizona and other states to bar voting by people who are in the country illegally.
Tennessee passed a law about two years ago that allows state election officials to purge noncitizen residents from election rolls.
Anyone listed as a noncitizen and registered to vote has 30 days to present proof of citizenship or be purged from the rolls.
Secretary of State spokesman Blake Fontenay told The Associated Press on Monday that election officials hadn’t seen the high court ruling, but planned to review it to see if it affects Tennessee.

Crosschecking Finds 181 Unreported PAC, Corporate Contributions

Some of the Legislature’s top leaders were among more than 50 candidates who failed to report 181 political contributions totaling $145,875 when the Registry of Election Finance conducted an annual “crosscheck” review mandated by a current state law.
House Republican Chairman Glen Casada, sponsor of a bill that critics say would undermine the present law, was found to have two unreported $1,000 contributions from political action committees. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, who staunchly opposed the bill, had more unreported donations than anyone on the list — 18 totaling $19,875.
Both men expressed surprise when contacted last week after Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, provided a list of the 2012 “crosscheck” results on request. Neither changed his position on the bill (HB643), which fell two votes short of passage on the House floor during the legislative session and which Casada plans to bring back for another try next year.
(Note: For the Registry’s list, click on this link: CrossIndexInfo.ods

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State Election Commission Signs Off on Firing Davidson County Administrator

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.”

Davidson Election Administrator Fired; Commissioner Quits

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.

Election Administrator Disputes ‘Scathing’ State Review

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 Election Administrator Responds to Probe, Hires Lawyer

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.

Davidson’s GOP Legislators Ousting 3 County Election Commissioners

Three Republicans who form the majority on the five-person Davidson County Election Commission are on their way out in a shakeup that ensures almost entirely new membership following a turbulent year, reports The Tennessean.
The State Election Commission is slated to take up appointments to the commission after Davidson County’s Republican state (legislative) delegation makes recommendations Monday.
According to multiple Nashville commissioners, the delegation — House Speaker Beth Harwell and Sens. Steve Dickerson and Ferrell Haile — plans to nominate a clean slate.
Commissioner Patricia Heim confirmed in an email late Thursday night that she was told she and the other two GOP members, Lynn Greer and Steve Abernathy, will not be back. Heim, who has served on the commission since 1995, said she didn’t know who would be appointed to replace them.
Greer, the commission’s chairman since Republicans took power in 2009, said he told Harwell that he “would prefer not to return” after a decade on the panel.
“Ten years is a long time to serve,” Greer said.
Abernathy — at the center of controversy lately for his proposal to review the citizenship status of recently registered foreign-born voters — said Harwell called him Thursday to say the GOP delegation planned to move in a different direction.
“I told her I appreciated the opportunity and that I felt we had made some positive improvements,” he said of his four years on the commission. “I didn’t ask her why, and she didn’t volunteer anything.”