State transportation officials have yet to decide whether they’ll keep using 151 electronic highway signs across Tennessee to show a daily count of traffic fatalities in 2013, according to the Tennessean. Kendell Poole, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, said the signs are a “victory for saving lives,” despite fatalities this year topping 1,000 and surpassing last year’s total. He favors using them again in 2013.
…As of Friday, there were 1,002 traffic deaths this year, 69 more than at the same point last year. In 2011, there were 938 total traffic fatalities, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety. (Note: The website listing fatalities, which on Monday morning still had Friday’s figures for 2012, is HERE.)
The increase raises questions about the effectiveness of the signs. Some motorists say they don’t work, but Poole and other state officials say, at a minimum, they get people talking about staying safe.
“It was always our goal to raise awareness, and we certainly think we have done that,” Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Beth Emmons said. “People are always talking about it.”
…In 2011, traffic deaths reached a nearly 50-year low, and this year’s total probably still falls below that of 2010, which saw 1,032 fatalities, Donnals said.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer decided to erect the signs in April after seeing a spike in deaths through the first three months of the year.
From January through March, there were 64 more traffic deaths than during the same three months in 2011. But from April through November, there were just three more deaths than during the corresponding period in 2011.
Two congressmen have called for a federal investigation of the electronic database used by Tennessee and 23 other states to track drugstore sales of methamphetamine’s main ingredient, reports the News Sentinel. U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday asking for an inquiry into whether the system skirts agreements with state governments, stonewalls police and violates federal law by mining the sales numbers for marketing data.
“We have new concerns about the legality, integrity and effectiveness of this tracking system and believe it may warrant greater federal scrutiny at this time,” the letter reads. The system “may not only be violating (federal law), but may also be impeding law enforcement’s anti-diversion efforts, intentionally or otherwise.”
The company that operates the database says it’s done nothing wrong.
Pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in some popular cold and sinus medicines, also serves as the foundation for most recipes for meth, an addictive stimulant that mimics adrenaline. Meth cooks use household chemicals such as lantern fuel and drain cleaner to break down pseudoephedrine, producing toxic waste and sometimes fires and explosions in the process.
Davidson County voting machines that defaulted to Republican ballots during the Aug. 2 primary elections had been programmed like those used in a closed-primary system, which Tennessee doesn’t have, reports The Tennessean. Election Commissioner Steve Abernathy, who has defended the county’s use of the machines, known as “electronic poll books,” confirmed that vendor ES&S programmed them like the ones used in Maryland, where voters generally must be registered members of a party to vote in its primary.
In Tennessee, the system is open, meaning voters don’t register as party members, and they can cast ballots in either primary. But the machines in 60 of Davidson County’s 160 precincts didn’t always work that way last month.
Some voters, including Sheriff Daron Hall, an elected Democrat, have said the electronic poll books gave them Republican ballots if poll workers didn’t ask them which primary they wanted to vote in.
The problem has drawn howls of outrage from Democrats, including Metro Council members and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper. Abernathy, one of three Republicans on the five-member Election Commission, said the machines weren’t supposed to work that way.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Davidson County election officials have backed away from using electronic poll books in the November election.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/Ns0uLc ) reported the decision Thursday came despite Davidson County Election Commission members expressing confidence in the reliability of 60 of the devices used in the Aug. 2 primary.
The electronic poll books drew fire after reports that voters who did not specify the party primary ballot they wanted were assigned a Republican ballot.
Commissioner Steve Abernathy said he wants the commission to revisit the issue later, saying the software error evident in the primary election has been corrected.
“Based on that data I have seen so far from the electronic poll book locations, it appears that the primary ballots in Nashville were processed with better than 99.8 percent accuracy,” Abernathy said. “I challenge any other government agency or department to match that level of performance.”
Commission member A.J. Starling didn’t disagree, but said it’s a matter of voter perception after the gaffe in the primary election.
“The electorate out there doesn’t have the confidence that the system is what it ought to be,” Starling said.
The commission had planned to buy another 100 of the books, to have them on line at all 160 polls in November.
Funding also became an issue. The Metro Council voted last week to withhold a $400,000 final payment for the machines after the problem that became evident during the primary.
Just hours after the Davidson County Election Commission voted Tuesday not to use electronic poll books for voting in November, Metro Council members voted to hold off on paying for the machines, reports The Tennessean. The poll books, which replaced paper poll books recently in 60 of the county’s 160 voting precincts, have been at the center of criticism in the past week because some voters received the wrong ballots during the Aug. 2 primary.
The commission had planned to use the new poll books in all 160 precincts for the Nov. 6 general election. But four of the five commission members voted Tuesday to revert back to the paper poll books for all precincts.
The electronic poll books will be used only for poll workers to look up voter lists. Funding for those additional poll books — about $400,000 — was part of an appropriations bill that was before the Metro Council Tuesday evening. Last week, Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry called for the city to hold off on approving that money pending an audit of the election processes.
The council voted to approve her amendment and take up the issue of whether to fund the purchase of the equipment at a later date.
“I think it’s our responsibility to have the election commission come before us with all the uncertainty,” said Councilman Lonnell Matthews.
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.