Early voter returned for second ballot in Sullivan

J. H. Osborne • Aug 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A Sullivan County man voted twice in Aug. 7 elections, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said Thursday.

His name will be handed over to the Sullivan County District Attorney’s office for an investigation, Frye told members of the Sullivan County Election Commission.

The DA’s office will determine whether the man’s actions warrant charges, Frye said.

“They’ll investigate it and take it from there,” Frye said.

The man, whose date of birth puts him in his early 60s, participated in early voting, asking for only a general ballot, Frye said.

On Election Day, the man went to his regular precinct — Ketron Intermediate School — and voted again, asking for a Democratic primary ballot, Frye said.

For Aug. 7, there were three ballots: Democratic party primary for state and federal offices on the November ballot; Republican party primary for state and federal offices on the November ballot; and a general election that included two county commission seats, four county school board seats, property assessor, and all county constable districts.

Voters must pick one primary or the other — you cannot vote in both. Voters, however, may cast a general election ballot without participating in either primary.

But all primary ballots, for either party, come with a general election ballot.

Had the man cast an early vote in either primary, his name would have been marked — in a registered voters log used by poll workers at each precinct — as ineligible to vote on Election Day, Frye said.

Because he chose only a general election ballot when he early voted, his name was not flagged.

“We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Election Commission Chairman A.D. Jones.

The procedural glitch was detected as staff in Frye’s office worked through standard after-election data processing, which includes entering each voter — and, for elections that include primary races, which primary the voter participated in.

That information is public record.

Frye said that process was about half complete as of Thursday afternoon.

By the time it’s finished — Frye estimated another week or so — the voting records for each of the 11,611 voters who cast ballots will have been updated.

So far, she said, only the one discrepancy has been discovered this time around.

The same thing happened, again with only one voter, in 1996, Frye said. In that instance, a man cast an early ballot, and returned again on Election Day to vote on a special question on the ballot.

State law gives county election commissions 45 days to complete the post-election list of who voted and which ballots they cast — general only, Democratic or Republican.

Once that information is complete, it’s available for purchase in CD format — and it’s data often requested by political campaigns.

The Election Commission discussed whether to alter its past procedure and release that data “piecemeal” for this election cycle, but reached a consensus to stick to releasing it only when the process is completed.

Commission members who broached the subject mentioned a possible challenge of the results of the Republican party primary by Congressman David Davis, who was defeated by Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe in the race to be the GOP candidate in the general election in November for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Davis since 2006.

State law requires county election commissions to certify Aug. 7 election results no later than Aug. 18 (Sullivan County results were certified Thursday by the county Election Commission). Would-be challengers of the results then have 10 days to file a challenge — in Davis’ case, to the state Republican Party.

Frye said Davis’ campaign has inquired about when the voter list would be completed and available — but no formal request for the information has been received.

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