Tennesseans desperately seeking health care coverage Thursday night received an erroneous message that the state was no longer accepting applicants for a Medicaid waiver program during the first 38 minutes of a competitive dialing process, reports The Tennessean. Callers who got past busy signals heard a recorded message informing them that the 2,500-applicant limit had been reached, when it had not.
Thursday night marked the state’s sixth round of taking applications for the TennCare Standard Spend Down, for people with low incomes and high medical bills who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid coverage. State officials say Tennessee does not have the manpower to handle an open-ended application system, so people have only one or two nights a year to do the competitive dialing.
“Due to a technical issue related to a server and the phone system, the phone lines at the beginning of the Standard Spend Down were not working properly,” said Devin Stone, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Human Services. “We are continuing to investigate with the vendors regarding the issue. Calls were successfully coming through by 6:38 p.m. By 7:23 p.m., we successfully reached our goal of 2,500.”
It is anybody’s guess how many people stopped trying to get through after hearing the erroneous recording, said Michele Johnson, managing attorney for the Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy organization.
The Spend Down program consistently has more slots available for coverage than people enrolled in the program. Last year, the program had coverage budgeted for 3,500 people but maintained an average enrollment of 1,000.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee election officials called Friday for closer scrutiny of a contest in the state’s largest county after reports that more than 5 percent of voters have gotten the wrong ballot during early voting.
Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins said he has asked the state comptroller’s office to do a performance audit of the vote in Shelby County. Goins described the situation as “a mess,” and a letter from Goins and Secretary of State Tre Hargett noted that the current issues are part of a string of troubling election problems dating back years.
The state stepped in on the next to last day of early voting after voting database expert Joe Weinberg estimated more than 2,300 voters cast early choices on the wrong ballot. The mistakes are largely the result of redistricting and affect state legislative races.
Weinberg told The Commercial Appeal that he has been helping identify the problems for the Shelby County Election Commission, which reports 445,747 registered voters in the county.
Goins said he wants to get the matter corrected by next Thursday’s primary and expects to have an “error free” general election in November.
Voters who already cast incorrect early ballots will not be allowed to vote again, and officials are urging voters who think their ballot is wrong to tell a poll worker before casting their ballots.
Richard Holden, the county’s Administrator of Elections, told The Associated Press on Friday that he could not confirm Weinberg’s numbers, and he did not provide his own estimate as to how many ballots have been incorrect. Holden said the commission was working to make sure that no more mistakes were made.
“I haven’t been looking in the rear view mirror,” Holden said. “I have been looking through the windshield.”
In their letter to the comptroller requesting the audit, Hargett and Goins said election problems in Shelby County have stretched back about a decade. In 2010, an election official loaded the wrong information into an electronic toll book, indicating that thousands of voters had cast ballots when they hadn’t.
Candidates in 2006 sued the county election commission, alleging that irregularities affected the outcome of a county general election. In 2005, a special election to fill a vacant seat was voided because ballots were cast by ineligible felons and dead people.
“While each example is in and of itself unacceptable, together they indicate a troubling pattern of errors that cannot go unnoticed,” the letter said. “These errors have eroded public confidence in the Shelby County Election Commission Administration to the point where every action taken by them is considered suspect.”
Many of the improper ballots are in uncontested races, but more than 300 of them have showed up in the District 93 contest involving current state representatives Mike Kernell and G.A. Hardaway.
Both candidates say they continue to hear from voters about problems.
“We’ve got one goofy scenario after another and there is just no excuse,” Hardaway told the newspaper.
Through Wednesday, 41,595 votes had been cast.
Six suburban cities have referendums on whether to leave the county school system and create their own schools. Those elections are being contested in court as a violation of the state constitution and the votes could be thrown out later.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE — With more than 1,000 wrong ballots cast in Shelby County, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged state election officials Thursday to review early voting ballots across the state.
“Republicans have spent the last two years talking about the importance of pure elections and yet they have failed over and over again to protect our voting rights,” Forrester said. “Their far-reaching incompetence and mismanagement has completely undermined our elections and any shred of faith voters may have had left in the process.”
Election officials confirmed to Memphis media that early voters in Shelby County cast more than 1,000 wrong ballots during early voting.
With so many mistakes, state officials should review early voting ballots ahead of the August 2 Primary Election — specifically in districts and precincts that were severely altered by redistricting — and report on the scope and magnitude of the “wrong ballot” mishap.
Initially election officials refused to acknowledge the widespread error, but thanks to the persistence of two concerned citizens, Joe Weinberg and Steve Ross, voters now have an understanding of the problem in Shelby County. So far state officials have failed to address whether the “wrong ballot” oversight is happening elsewhere in Tennessee.
“The taxpayers funding these elections deserve to know whether their vote counted or it was stolen because of incompetence,” Forrester said. “How big is this problem? When will it be fixed? Unfortunately, we don’t know because Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has not publicly addressed the issue that 1,000 wrong ballots were cast on his watch.”
Local election officials say they won’t lift a finger to fix this blunder. The pattern of neglect we see from our election officials is unacceptable.
“From the failed implementation of the voter-suppressing photo ID law to the disenfranchisement of law-abiding voters, we have called on Coordinator Goins multiple times to take some responsibility and fix the problems plaguing our elections, but it appears he’s more interested in playing politics than being accountable to voters,” Forrester said. “While we are proud to live in a state where citizens stand up to a neglectful government, our citizens deserve leaders who will hold themselves accountable for the errors happening under their command.”
The chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission conceded Tuesday that nearly 1,000 voters received the wrong ballots during early voting for state and federal primary races in the Aug. 2 elections, according to the Commercial Appeal. But voters who received the wrong ballots won’t get to vote again with the right ballots, said commission chairman Robert Meyers.
Meyers, a Republican, publicly thanked the Democratic nominee for a Shelby County Commission seat, Steve Ross, for identifying the glitch that caused the problem.
Saying that the information Ross released on his popular progressive blog Monday was “a correct report,” Meyers at a late afternoon news conference Tuesday tried to assure voters that proper “corrective action” had been taken. The mistakes appear to be related to a late rush by the Election Commission to update voter files based on redistricting in state and federal races.
The votes that were cast for the wrong race will still count, and those voters will not get a chance to cast ballots in the correct race, Meyers said, citing the one-man, one-vote principle. The wrong ballots appear to be dispersed across several races, with the vast majority in state House contests.
A Memphis blogger who has closely followed redistricting and voting issues says nearly 1,000 voters have so far cast ballots in the wrong races for either state Senate, state House, U.S. House of Representatives or some combination of those three contests, reports the Commercial Appeal. Steve Ross, the Democratic nominee for a Shelby County Commission seat on the Aug. 2 ballot, said concerns about the Shelby County Election Commission rushing to update its voting database following redistricting of state and federal districts led him to run an analysis narrowly looking at voters who live close to voting boundaries.
He said he spent more than seven hours typing addresses of some voters who have already participated in early voting into a database, and compared which races they voted in to those races they should be voting in, based on information Ross said is provided by the state.
…Election Commission chairman Robert Meyers said Monday that he became aware of the issue over the weekend and that the county’s administrator of elections, Richard Holden, has his staff checking into the claims.
Meyers said, “I have a pretty high confidence” that the election commission databases have been properly updated. But he added: “There were so many changes that had to be made, I’m not going to fool myself that somebody might be pointing out a mistake, and it’s our job to figure it out.”
Gov. Bill Haslam says people are right to condemn Vanderbilt University for concocting an anti-discrimination policy that seems prejudiced against students seeking to assemble with others who share their religious beliefs, according to TNReport. But Haslam said he still plans to veto a controversial bill the state Legislature passed recently that prohibits public colleges from enacting so-called “all comers” rules that require groups using campus facilities to accept as members and leaders anyone who expresses interest in joining, regardless of whether they embrace the group’s mission and values.
The sticking point for Haslam is that the legislation also specifically includes Vanderbilt, a private university that accepts millions in state taxpayer dollars to provide medical care to the poor.
Conservatives who value limited government should resist assuming government has the legitimate authority to dictate operating policies to private establishments, said Haslam.
“I think Vanderbilt should do away with the policy. I don’t think it makes sense. I don’t think it’s fair. I really don’t,” he told reporters after a ceremonial bill signing at Brick Church Middle School in Nashville Thursday.
“But I don’t think the remedy for that is the state telling them, as a private institution, what they should do,” Haslam said.
News release from Reps. Dale Ford and Tony Shipley:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After learning of the Davidson County District Attorney’s announcement there will be no criminal charges against them, Representative Dale Ford (R–Jonesborough) and Representative Tony Shipley (R–Kingsport) today released the following joint statement:
“We are glad to see the District Attorney’s full accounting of the facts involved with this case led him to conclude there was never any wrongdoing here. As we have maintained from the beginning of this ordeal, we were never in the wrong.
“Standing up for the rights of our constituents should never be subject to these types of allegations and it is encouraging the D.A. arrived at the same conclusion.
“We vow to continue doing our jobs to the best of our abilities and serving the needs of our constituents in Upper East Tennessee. It is an honor to serve the people of our respective districts and we are always available to help them.”
Earlier post HERE.