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State Sen. Bill Ketron shoulders much of the blame for recent election blunders that call into question the intention of the Murfreesboro lawmaker and Republican colleagues who fired election administrators across the state and delayed a law meant to improve elections.
Reported election mishaps in Rutherford, Davidson, Hawkins, Maury and Shelby counties have revealed troubling problems in Tennessee and the Republicans responsible for conducting those elections, according to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.
“Mr. Ketron and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly should apologize to all Tennesseans for mishandling elections in this state,” Forrester said. “People, regardless of their party affiliation, expect their votes to be counted correctly.
“Using wrong voter files, miscounting ballots, and not even opening voter precincts at all like over in Rutherford County do not provide many of us with confidence in the election process, which is the bedrock of our democracy. It appears the Republicans responsible for running our elections are either grossly incompetent or trying to manipulate election results.”
Ketron sponsored the bill that delayed until 2012 the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which required all county election commissions to make the switch to optical scan machines and paper ballots before the November 2010 elections. More than $30 million in federal funding has been set aside to purchase the new machines.
“If we had those machines in place earlier this month and Republicans hadn’t fired so many experienced election administrators, we likely would not have encountered as many problems,” Forrester said. “Republicans flat out lied when they said the purchase of these new machines would be a financial burden to county governments.”
Republicans took control of local election commissions in all 95 counties after the November 2008 elections, firing many county election administrators soon thereafter and threatening to fire Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel, as well.
A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Penuel and several other county election administrators in Tennessee contending Republicans violated their constitutional rights by conspiring to treat their jobs as political patronage. Penuel has settled his claim with the Rutherford County Election Commission and will retire at the end of the year.
“Conducting fair and accurate elections is not a partisan issue,” Forrester said. “It is at the core of this country’s foundation. Instead of disenfranchising voters we should be encouraging as many citizens as we can to get involved in the process. Mr. Ketron appears to be more worried about playing partisan politics and taking care of special interests than he is about governing responsibly.”
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