THE HUNTER REPORT
Candidate’s Poll Watcher Banned after Incident
BY: PAT HUNTER
October 19, 2010
Click to view public notice: Loudon County Election Commission 6:00 PM Election Commission Office, County Bldg., Loudon
Tuesday’s Loudon County Election meeting was called to order at 6:30 PM but for nearly half an hour the door remained locked in the Election Commission Office while one election official questioned why others were meeting behind closed doors. When the meeting finally commenced the Loudon County Election Commission met in the Conference Room at the County Office Building. In attendance were Susan Harrison, Administrator of Elections, and Election Commission members Mary Sue Jordan, Chairman, Betty Brown, Secretary, Jim Davis, Sue Jane Hartsook and Darlene Schrubb, numerous election workers, Ron Jordan, Betty McCallister, Vann Shaver, Sarah Shaver, and myself.
After the approval of minutes and a brief discussion about election day food, Loudon County Election Coordinator Susan Harrison informed the Loudon County Election Commission that 730 people had voted today with a total of 3,539 voters, which is extremely well.
Harrison also informed the Election Commission of an incident, which occurred during early voting at Roane State Community College in Lenoir City. According to Election Administrator Harrison, a candidate’s Poll Watcher has been banned this election cycle. The candidate can send another Poll Watcher, Harrison informed the Commission.
Candidates may name Poll Watchers however Poll Watchers must abide by the rules and regulations set by the State Election Office.
Ms. Harrison had spoken to Mark Goins, Tennessee State Election Coordinator and due to the possibility of an altercation the Poll Watcher was banned. The incident occurred late Monday afternoon. Ms. Harrison spoke about contacting the lady with the child who was present and Harrison apologized to her on behalf of the Election Commission and election workers. The lady accepted the apology but she was not identified. Harrison said that she had two complaints besides this “altercation.” In the past the poll has worked well.
Election Administrator Harrison spoke to the State Election Coordinator’s office and it was up to the Loudon County Election Commission to make changes if they chose to do so.
Harrison said we know what race we’re all talking about. Was Harrison alluding to Lenoir City’s hotly contested Mayoral race with candidates Tony Aikens, Joe Sims, and Gary Aikens?
One option for the Election Commission’s consideration was to change out the Poll Officer and to send an impartial election official with no ties to oversee the Lenoir City Election. The election official would ensure that the voters and poll watchers are treated properly but more importantly that the public is not disrupted. “We have to look out for the voter” “We cannot put a voter in harms way” said Harrison. If the Loudon County Election agreed, they would be sending Loudon City resident Jim Roberts.
Harrison had spoken to all parties and she said that there was no place for “foul language” and she did not condone it. When Harrison was asked who she was referring to Harrison would not name the person. “The Poll Watcher has been removed” and we need to put this behind us.
Most of the discussion centered around the Poll Officer. Harrison also said that we’re not out to get her, “We were protecting Ann from being treated that way.” She was referring to the Poll Officer at the Roane State Election Polling place.
The conference room was filled with election poll workers and Harrison informed them that if they had any complaints that they were to inform her as soon as possible. It’s hard for me to address the situation if I have no clue she relayed to the election workers.
Harrison relayed that she had spoken to Mark Goins. Harrison felt that it’s political, it’s a game. We’ve been put in the middle.
Chairperson Sue Jordan explained that the State had offered a solution to the problem and what Ann wants. If she wants to risk being there and being put in the spot that’s her choice, we’ve given her an out said Jordan. All that we can do is to protect the voters and volunteers. Members in the audience said that Ann was not the problem. Someone in the audience asked, why are you removing her? For her safety replied Chairperson Jordan. One of the election workers said that she had written a statement and her statement was being questioned as not being true. The State doesn’t know the situation here remarked a poll worker.
The State called us and told us what he had to do said Election Secretary Betty Brown. Election Commission member Sue Jane Hartsook asked Betty Brown who had called. Brown replied (State Representative) Dennis Ferguson called me and Mark Goins called and said that he had received numerous calls. From whom replied Hartsook. I don’t know replied Betty Brown.
The poll workers all spoke at the same time when Harrison interrupted and informed the audience that Ann would remain as the Poll Officer but that Mr. Robert’s would be sent to monitor the situation to ensure safety. If there is a problem Mr. Robert’s will not hesitate to call 911 said Harrison. Brown told the workers that they are trained to know the rules and no visiting was allowed because people would complain. Someone replied that one person sat and spoke to a Candidate’s Poll Watcher for 45 minutes. The Poll Officer relayed how the Poll Watcher had said that Susan (Harrison) said that it was ok. Poll workers also informed the Election Commission and Susan Harrison how the “grandbaby” was also in the voter polling area. Another worker pointed out that the Poll Watchers were supposed to observe and not stay on the phone. The one Poll Watcher with all the problems is gone now, said Election Coordinator Harrison. One other poll worker felt like someone needed to instruct the poll watchers on what they could do and Harrison said that she would be there in the morning.
State law says that they may not speak to a voter prior to voting said Harrison. The election workers were in staunch support of the Poll Officer. Ann didn’t ask us to come. I appreciate your loyalty replied Chairperson Jordan. Harrison stepped in to say that she did not want Ann or the voters to be harassed. Harrison wanted the poll workers to be cordial to the poll watchers. Ann is fair and if you try to move Ann to Loudon you are punishing her. That’s not going to happen replied Harrison. Anyone that wants to quit may do so, we’ll replace you tomorrow said Election Commissioner Betty Brown.
I do not want this discussed no more Harrison told the election workers. Harrison had spoken to Mark Goins four times about this issue and he was concerned about the “threat of violence”. If there are any complaints, I want written complaints.
After the lengthy discussion, Jim Davis made a motion that Jim Roberts would be the inspector and Ann would remain as the Poll Officer at the Lenoir City Precinct, seconded by Election Commission Darlene Schrubb, which was unanimously approved.
POLL WATCHERS. pdf
EXCERPT FROM POLL WATCHERS pdf
WHEN MUST APPOINTMENTS BE MADE?
A. Early Voting
1. No later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the first day of early voting; or
2. No later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the poll watcher will be present at the early voting site
B. Election day
1. Appointments must be submitted no later than 12:00 noon two (2) business days before the election
VI. WHO MAY NOT BE APPOINTED AS A POLL WATCHER?
A. Anyone who will be or who is a candidate for an office on the ballot
B. County election commission members
VII. WHAT DO POLL WATCHERS DO UPON ARRIVING AT THE POLLS?
A. Upon arrival at the polling place, a watcher shall display his appointment to the Officer of Elections.
B. The poll watcher shall sign the register of poll watchers.
C. The poll watcher shall wear a badge displaying their "name" and the words "POLL WATCHER". The County Election Commission should provide the badges (labels) for candidates or campaign committee’s to use so the precinct officials know they have been duly appointed.
VIII. WHAT MAY POLL WATCHERS DO?
A. Watch and inspect performance in and around polling place
B. Speak to the judges and the officer of elections
C. Through judges, challenge voters
D. During preparation and certification, inspect the poll lists
E. Inspect the ballots while being called and counted
F. During preparation and certification, inspect the tally sheets
G. Present a protest of any aspect of the conduct of the election to the officer of elections, county election commission or inspector
IX. WHAT MAY POLL WATCHERS NOT DO?
A. Interfere with any voter in preparing or casting voter’s ballot
B. Prevent election official from performing his or her duties
C. Inspect signature lists during the election hours
D. Observe the giving assistance to a voter
E. Wear campaign material of any kind during the performance of his or her duties
F. Exit the room of the counting board after the actual counting of ballots begins
G. Possess electronic devices when they are observing the duties of the absentee counting board.
H. Speak to the voters. This includes greeting the voter or standing in the doorway where the voter enters.
X. MAY POLL WATCHERS ENGAGE IN CAMPAIGN ACTIVITIES?
A. In the polling place -NO
B. Outside the 100’ boundary
1. Yes, he or she may engage in campaign activity outside of the campaign free zone,
2. However, once the poll watcher resumes his or her duties as a poll watcher, he or she must cease the campaign activity.