Most provisional ballots not counted in Tennessee

Associated Press • Jan 21, 2013 at 5:44 AM

NASHVILLE -- State election figures show just 23 percent of the provisional ballots cast in the 2012 Tennessee general election were counted.

According to The Tennessean, http://tnne.ws/10gmKJt, there were 7,097 of the paper ballots filled out statewide and 1,623 of them were tabulated.

Election totals show fewer than two-tenths of one percent of Tennessee voters who went to cast their ballots had problems at the polls, state Election Coordinator Mark Goins said.

"I'd like to get to the point where it's even lower," said Goins, "but I'll take this number when you look at the full scale of things."

Nearly half of the provisional ballots statewide were cast in Shelby County, where almost 90 percent of them were not included in the vote count. Elsewhere only about one in three provisional ballots was tossed.

A Nashville civil rights attorney who is challenging the state photo ID statute, which drove the provisional ballot issue, said people were disenfranchised.

"People ought not to have to fight to vote in a democratic society," said George Barrett.

The issue of provisional ballots took on more importance because voters must show government issued photographic proof of who they are, in addition to having proof of registration to vote.

People whose identity was questioned could vote by provisional ballot and then bring proof of their identity to county election commission offices.

Republicans members of the Legislature pushed through the voter ID law in 2011, saying its intent was to ensure voter integrity. Barrett and others have called the statute an attempt to discourage voters who traditionally vote for Democrats.

In Shelby County, which had the highest rate of discarding of provisional ballots, President Barack Obama won the presidential election by 25 percentage points, while statewide totals gave the plurality to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

In Nashville, Davidson County election officials said an 83 percent increase in requests for provisional ballots was the cause of them running out of official envelopes that hold them. One critic of recent election changes said the sharp increase in provisional ballot requests could show legitimately registered voters were purged from voting rolls.

"We have to look at why there are provisional ballots," said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. "We have to look a little more closely at the purging procedures and if they're being applied fairly and equally."


Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos