Oct 15 2013

Precinct Consolidation Round 2

Posted by Steve Ross in elections

Map of precincts to be consolidated. Red precincts fold into blue.

Map of precincts to be consolidated. Red precincts fold into blue.

It was last June…the last time the specter of precinct consolidation reared it’s ugly head.

At that time I linked to a lot of things…including the intention to cut the number of precincts to 150 from 236.

Last year’s precinct consolidation meant many voters didn’t get cards with their new location until the day of the election. It can’t have helped that the decision was made just a month before early voting was to begin…or that the body was so far behind on their redistricting procedure they fouled up the August state primary…leading to threats from the State Election Commission, a rebuke from the state Comptroller for shoddy management, two overturned elections, a further fouled up November election, and yet another rebuke…this time from the County.

Quite a resume, no?

So its probably easy to understand why someone might look at the current move with a skeptical eye.

Election Commission Meeting

The Election Commission is reportedly meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15th at the Election Operations Center at 980 Nixon. I have no idea what’s on the agenda because it doesn’t appear on the website, nor does a meeting notice. Normal time for meetings is 4:30, but I recommend you call ahead…just to be sure. The number is 222-1200.

As you can see, transparency is highly valued at the Election Commission…even the minutes are months behind.

But according to sources this list of precinct consolidations will be up for discussion.

The 58,000 voters in the precincts that would be shut down, are 74% Democratic voters. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering the partisan breakdown of the Election Commission, and the general partisan leanings of the county (which is at least 70% Democratic in November elections).

But the partisan leanings of the precincts, isn’t really the issue…its the disclosure to the voters.

There hasn’t been any…again.

If you’re concerned about these, or any other actions of the Election Commission, I recommend you go to one of their meetings. Maybe even ask a question or two. Public meetings aren’t sexy, but they are where things get done. If you don’t like what’s happened and what’s happening, you owe it to yourself to go. Nothing happens for people who don’t show up.

Here’s the information again.

Election Operations Center
980 Nixon
Wednesday, October 14th, 4:30PM.

The meeting is open to the public.

Nov 07 2012

Securing the Vote

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, Shelby County

Election Day is over, and despite some local reports of problems with too few machines in some places and malfunctioning machines in others…it seems to have gone pretty smoothly. Regardless of your political bent, we should all be thankful for that.

It wasn’t that way for everyone, as the video to the left shows. No matter how many times this voter pushes one button, another lights up. It’s pretty freaky if you ask me and more than a little troubling.

This video is from Pennsylvania, not Tennessee. While the problem here is more likely a calibration issue, it certainly doesn’t do much to make folks feel like their vote is secure.

The truth is, the last thing people want is to feel like something shady is going on. That’s the rationale for all kinds of laws that impact voting.

The issue with touch-screen voting is and always has been the lack of a verifiable paper trail. As someone who works with computers all day, and so many of us do these days, we’ve all experienced the “I just lost everything” problem at one time or another. Touchscreen voting machines are just computers. In the absence of a paper trail, we might never know when that happens with touchscreen machines when they catastrophically fail.

In 2006 we made an investment in these machines. It was a bad investment if you ask me. At the time it took Democratic support to get these machines. I get that. But this wasn’t a strictly partisan issue then and it isn’t one now. I think both parties agree that unverifiable elections are unacceptable regardless of who’s in charge.

Since 2006, the company that first made the machines, Diebold, has gotten out of the election business, and many states have moved back to paper ballots.

Considering all the challenges we have here in Shelby Co., the fear about a correct count shouldn’t be one of them. We need to join the two Tennessee counties that got it right in the first place and the many states and local election commissions nationwide that are making the change and adopt paper ballots.

It just makes good sense, and right now is the right time.

Our next County-wide election isn’t until May of 2014…the County Primary. That gives us 17 months to prepare.

This won’t be the only change at the Election Commission. Word on the street is that there’s a top to bottom internal review in the near future, not to mention the Election Review Committee that the County Commission empaneled (of which I am a member). Integrating the shift to paper ballots in the reform process is both an efficient and intelligent way to restore confidence in the process.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done at the Election Commission, but removing one of the key sticking points, the lack of a verifiable paper trail, is one way to begin restoring confidence in the institution tasked with executing our elections.

We should all push to adopt paper ballots now. Here’s how to contact the members of the Shelby County Election Commission:

Chairman Robert Meyers

Norma Lester

George Monger

Dee Nollner

Steve Stamson

Aug 03 2012

Bullet Dodged? – Shelby Elections Edition #WrongBallot

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, Shelby County

The Return of the Dangling Chad?

This post isn’t about my race at all. It’s too soon for me to write anything remotely coherent about that right now, though I may write a series of very short posts later on. We’ll see.

This is about the results of the Primary election in Shelby County from yesterday and how the wrong ballot problem may or may not have impacted the outcome of race.

There was a concern that the error rate we were seeing out of House Districts with contested Primary elections would lead to contested results in determining the Democratic nominee. For instance, by the end of Early Voting, House District 90 was showing a 15% error rate over all (people voting in and out of district). That’s pretty substantial and could have completely thrown the election.

An election with a result falling inside this error margin would have likely resulted in a challenge. However, that wouldn’t have been decided in court, but rather by the State and Local Party structures. This is something no party wants to be faced with.

For those of you familiar with the Primary Election ouster of Rosalind Kurita, you know that this can be both an emotional and controversial issue. Her case was different….Democratic bona fides were the question. A challenge based on a bad election would have been even more difficult because the actions of a third party, in this case the Shelby County Election Commission, would have been at issue rather than the qualities or qualifications of candidates themselves.

Regardless, the local party structure would have been asked to make a choice and in the most hotly contested elections that choice would have been very difficult and divisive.

Its still too early to tell, and none of the election day participation has been analyzed, but at first glance it appears that both the Shelby County Election Commission and the local Party structures are off the hook on this issue. The margins of victory lead me to believe that even if a challenge is brought it will be denied by the party. This is just an initial impression.

While the Shelby County Election Commission may have dodged this bullet, and the additional black eye that would have come with it, there are still plenty of issues regarding this election that need to be investigated. It is my hope that the investigation by the State Comptrollers office is transparent, thorough, and speedy. Anything less would leave questions in the minds of the voters.

I’ll also be looking into much of this. I don’t want to overly bird-dog the Election Commission, but I also think its important the public fully understand what has happened and how to move forward and regain the faith and trust of the public.

Stay Tuned…

Jul 26 2012

Election Update – Stay tuned #WrongBallot #VoteShelby

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, Shelby County

Just a quick update. Real life has intervened in my ability to update the numbers over the past several days. Based on a cursory analysis of information released this week, tomorrow’s numbers will be telling.

I hope to have a more comprehensive update tomorrow afternoon about the effect of the Election Commission’s efforts to correct the problem as well as other information.

Stay tuned.

Jul 24 2012

Resources and Findings #WrongBallot

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, Shelby County

So they don’t get buried behind other posts, here are the resources and findings that I revealed Monday.

Excel Spreadsheet
PDF Version
Google Earth KML Files:
Congressional Districts
State Senate Districts
State House Districts
Voter Participation List through 7/20/12

Download Google Earth here.

Watch the video here.

Note: New PVL files may reflect changes to the districts. Districts follow voters, not elections. As the Election Commission makes changes, so will the district information on new PVL files. I covered this here.