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SCEC works to process voter registrations, correct errors

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The Shelby County Election Commission is working extra shifts to process a huge last-minute delivery of voter registrations, but citizens are advised that registration errors can be corrected at the early voting locations.

One reason for the backlog is a spike in the number voter registration forms submitted late in the registration timetable.

One group, the Tennessee Black Voters Project, delivered a whopping 10,000 voter registration forms to the SCEC on Oct. 9, the last date for acceptance before the Nov. 6 election. The commission typically might not get 10,000 registrations over an entire month, an SCEC source reported.

TNBVP has been working fiercely as part of a statewide effort to boost voting in the state, and it has submitted a total of more than 36,000 voter registration applications to the SCEC for this year’s midterm elections.

Of that last batch of 10,000, each form still had to be processed properly despite the short timetable. The SCEC reports that many of the forms had problems: One form just had a first name on it, with no last name, address or Social Security number. Another five forms for different people shared the same Social Security number. And because, by law, Tennessee requires all voters to specify their gender, any forms leaving the “Mr./Mrs.” designation unmarked also had to be flagged as deficient.

Other problems included duplicate registrations, felons legally unable to vote, citizens who won’t be old enough to vote as of Election Day, illegibility and more.

Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips has said more than 55 percent of the registrations were invalid for varying reasons.

An SCEC source explained that this sometimes happens with voter registration drives, which typically pay people to scour the community and gather completed voter registration forms. Those workers are motivated to work fast and get many forms, and the results typically have some errors.

The SCEC immediately hired its maximum allowable number of extra people to process all the forms. They have been working in two shifts to get all handled in time for the election and to contact the affected voters to correct errors.

Voters need not worry about losing their rights to vote, the SCEC spokesman said. If a person’s voter registration has a problem, poll workers at early voting locations can help correct it on the spot. If the problem can’t be immediately corrected, voters can still cast provisional ballots. Voters who still experience problems can call the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Voter Protection Hotline at 855-844-VOTE (8683).

So far, problems with deficient voter registration forms has been kept to a minimum, according to the SCEC. Out of about 55,000 early votes cast as of Monday afternoon, only 53 provisional ballots had been cast.

The resolution of the issue has been bumpy. The TNBVP completed an SCEC open records request Oct. 5 after not being allowed to review incomplete or deficient registrations. The group then filed an open records lawsuit against the SCEC on Oct. 16, one day before the Oct. 17 start of early voting in Tennessee, asking for a court order to check the forms. The group was concerned thousands of voter registration forms might be wrongly invalidated. The group also wanted to ensure affected voters would get notice of their right to fix the deficient forms before or on Election Day.

The SCEC couldn’t immediately make the stacks of forms available for the group’s review but has since worked out a compromise to allow legal counsel for the TNBVP to inspect some of the forms in question, the SCEC source said.

For more information on the TNBVP, go to proudvoter.org/tnblackvoterproject.

For more information from the SCEC, visit their website. To view candidates, early voting info (times/locations and daily reports), sample ballots, and the Nov. 6 Election Day polling locations, visit shelbyvote.com and navigate to Elections > Upcoming Elections > “State and Federal General, and Municipal 11.6.2018.”

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