Tag Archives: fentress

Election Coordinator Says ‘Clerical Error’ Caused Lincoln Davis Voting Foulup

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.

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Former Congressman Lincoln Davis Turned Away from Voting

Former Congressman Lincoln Davis says he was denied the right to vote Tuesday in his native Fentress County, where he has been casting ballots since 1964.
“If I had moved here from somewhere else recently, maybe I could understand it,” said Democrat Davis. “But a former congressman, a former state senator and a civic leader… and nobody even notified me I’d been taken off the rolls?”
“Now I know how the black man must have felt a hundred years ago,” he said in a telephone call to a reporter.
Davis said he arrived at his usual voting place near his home in the Pall Mall community about an hour before the polls closed and was told by election officials he was not registered in the county and could not vote. Davis said he contacted state Election Coordinator Mark Goins, who let the decision of local officials stand.
The former congressman, who was defeated by Republican Scott DesJarlais in a bid for reelection in 2010, said he was told that he was registered to vote in adjoining Pickett County and could not vote in two counties.
Actually, Davis said he is registered to vote only in Byrdstown city elections and can do so legally since he owns property in the city, which is located in Fentress County and which he once served as mayor.
Davis said Tennessee has made it easier to vote in the past, being the final state approving women’s suffrage in 1920 and being a pioneer state in authorizing early voting.
“Why is it now that we’re making it harder for people to vote?” he said.
Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office and Goins, said the rejection of Davis as a voter was “regrettable and something we certainly did not want to see happen.”
“The bottom line on this one is we’re going to have to investigate to see what happened here,” Fontenay said. “How and why he got purged in Fentress County we don’t know yet.”
Fontenay said Goins advised Davis to cast a provisional ballot, but apparently the polls had closed before the former congressman could return to do so.

UPDATE: Goins says he called Davis Tuesday evening after the former congressman had already talked at some length to Fentress County Election Administrator Joey Williams. Goins said both men urged Davis to return quickly to his precinct to cast a provisional ballot.
“He did not seem interested in voting provisional,” said Goins. “I kept saying, ‘Get down there and vote’. We can handle this.”
Goins said he was not certain of the time he talked with Davis, though it may have been about 6:20 p.m., which could have left time for Davis to get back to the polls.
A provisional vote allows a person to cast his or her ballot with a decision made later on whether it will be counted.
Goins said Davis appears on records as a registered voter for general elections in Pickett County, not just as a Byrdstown city voter, and was purged from Fentress County rolls. He said officials would look into details of the situation Wednesday.
“It’s not a situation where we were denying him the right to vote,” Goins said. “We’ve just got to figure this out.”