Citing an abuse of power, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester called for the firing of Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

“The Secretary of State is using his office to obstruct the voting rights of all Tennesseans,” Forrester said. “Mr. Hargett’s refusal to do the job he was sworn to do appears to be part of a nefarious Republican strategy to stand in the way of secure and verifiable elections in Tennessee.

“We deserve better. Mr. Hargett needs to go. That’s why I’m calling on the General Assembly to remove him from office.”

Hargett has refused to implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. The law mandates that all county election commissions make the switch to paper ballots before the 2010 election.

“Mr. Hargett is hiding behind a weak legal opinion that is subject to wide interpretation. Legal scholars believe that the Secretary of State has the authority to move forward and implement the law as it stands now. I can come to no other conclusion: Mr. Hargett is willfully refusing to do his job. For the sake of a fair, honest and accurate election in 2010, he must be removed from office,” concluded Forrester.

And, Forrester contended, Republicans appear to be involved in a scheme to fire county election administrators without cause.

A federal lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of the ousted election administrators, who contend that their constitutional rights were violated when their jobs became political patronage. The federal suit coincides with several other pending lawsuits filed in state chancery courts by individual county election administrators who were fired.

“This is part of a pattern of disturbing behavior which has arisen since Secretary of State Hargett was sworn into office earlier this year,” Forrester continued. “We’ve also had county Election Commissions trying to conduct meetings behind closed doors in violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.

“It’s all beginning to look like an organized effort by the Republican Party to steal elections here in Tennessee.”

Republicans gained control of the General Assembly last November. Republican legislators decide who will serve on the county election commissions in the districts they represent. Republicans now control election commissions in all 95 counties.

“It’s obvious to me that Republicans are involved in a conspiracy to steal elections through intimidation, fraud, and denial of basic constitutional rights. This kind of behavior has to end. Hargett must go,” Forrester concluded.

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