The state comptroller examined the Shelby County Election Commission after thousands of Shelby County voters received the wrong ballot during the August 2 election. The resulting eight-page report points to mistakes the election commission made updating its voter rolls after a once-in-a-decade redistricting.
Investigators found that the election commission did not meet early deadlines, at one critical point stopped working for four weeks, and did not have adequate back-up plans.
“[The election commission] stopped work because the Shelby County Commission had deadlocked on passing its set of district lines,” said Senior Report for the Memphis Daily News Bill Dries. “The state’s beef with [Elections Administrator] Richard Holden is they think he should have been planning several options.”
Last month the election commission voted unanimously to suspend Holden for three days without pay, then put him on probation for six months. Commissioners will weigh the results of this report and the smoothness of the November 6 election, when they decide whether or not Holden should keep his job.
The report found “no discernible evidence of intentional misconduct,” but “poor judgment” on the part of the election commission staff. It concluded that the Shelby County Election Commission “has demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies.”
The scope of the report was narrow. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett requested the investigation because of “a troubling pattern of errors” at the election commission over the past 10 years, but the investigators only looked at the redistricting activities of 2012.
“It reflects what the investigators felt like the scope of their report was to be,” Dries said.
Copies of the report will now go to Hargett, Governor Bill Haslam and state legislators.
“So the role of the politicians who get this report is now critical in terms of whether the investigation goes deeper,” Dries said. “That’s not something that a body that carries out an investigation for a state official can necessarily wade into unless someone asks for it.”