Thousands purged from voting rolls
Posted: Friday, April 16, 2010 8:02 pm
CAMDEN (AP) — A purge of incomplete voter registrations dating back decades has led to thousands of people being removed from the voting rolls in one small Middle Tennessee county.
Mark Ward, the Benton County election administrator, said in the process of verifying voter registrations, he noticed forms that were incorrectly filled out, such as boxes that weren’t checked for declaring citizenship or that the voter was over age 18.
There are 11,700 registered voters in the county and 2,100 registrations have been invalidated, including the wife of state Rep. Butch Borchert, D-Camden.
“There are a few people that have not been happy with the process,” Ward told WSMV-TV. He said his only course of action was to declare the forms deficient.
“According to state law, this is the only way to do it,” Ward said. “I don’t know any other way to do it.”
One resident, 69-year-old Charles Hubbs, said that he got a letter saying he failed to check that he was an American citizen, despite being born in Benton County.
“I voted every election since 1962,” Hubbs said.
Another voter, John Latimer, also was told his registration was invalid for not checking the box regarding citizenship on the form he filled out 30 years ago.
“It shows my year of birth and my place of birth as Greenville, S.C. — which, last time I checked, it was the United States,” Latimer said.
Ward said that even if voters filled out one piece of information like a birth date but didn’t check the box for being over 18, it was still invalid.
“It’s not good enough to me because the question isn’t answered on the form,” said Ward.
Mark Goins, Tennessee election administrator, said the county election commissioner followed the law. But he said he doubts a judge would have invalidated the voter registrations of these longtime voters if there had ever been a challenge.
“We are going to do everything we can that they correct the forms and make sure they are no longer deficient,” said Goins.
Two weeks ago, 1,500 letters had been mailed to inform voters about the problems and some have fixed their forms.
However, some residents said they are concerned that some voters didn’t understand the letter meant they wouldn’t be able to vote if they didn’t register again.
“I’m afraid if they don’t fill them out and they come to vote, that they will be turned away, and if they are turned away, they won’t ever come back to vote again,” said Joyce Ball, a Benton County voter.
State election leaders were trying to keep people informed and held town hall meetings this week to help the affected voters get registered again.
In addition to the incomplete forms, Ward said he found some cases of illegitimate voters, including 33 convicted felons who have voted.
Information from: WSMV-TV, http://www.wsmv.com/
Published in The Messenger 4.16.10