Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holden on Probation as Election Commission Addresses Glitch Issues

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Rich Holden
  • Rich Holden
Quietly, with no fanfare, the five-member board of the Shelby County Election Commission has taken internal disciplinary action in the wake of a year-long series of glitches, which culminated in the troubling revelation that more than 3000 ballots issued for the August 2 countywide election cycle were found to be have improperly marched district races with precinct locations.

The Flyer has learned that the Commission board had, by unanimous decision, imposed a three-day suspension on SCEC administrator Rich Holden and put Holden on a six-month period of probation going forward.

“Rich is accountable as the administrator,” said one Commission member, who made it clear, however, that board members believed that staff issues involving some of the civil servants who work for the Commission were at the root of the problems that have dogged the Commission all year long. “If changes need to be made, we’ll go through the procedures necessary to make them,” said the Commissioner.

The bungled ballot matter has largely been attributed to a decision to hold off on completing redistricting for the August election pending resolution of a long-running redistricting stalemate on the Shelby County Commission (a body not due to hold new elections until 2014). Other problems have included the release of a misleading monthly update report that at first seemed to have erased the voter histories of several hundred Memphians in the inner city and a tabulation of the county’s official voter list that confused the distinction between active and eligible voters.

As part of a new monitoring process, staff performances and the work of specific divisions will be re-evaluated and periodically reviewed according to checkpoints jointly arrived at by Holden and board members.

Lawyer Robert Meyers, one of three Republicans on the five-member board and the board’s chairman, confirmed the disciplinary actions and the new arrangement at the conclusion of a lengthy regular work session at the Commission’s Shelby Farms offices on Wednesday.

Relations between Commissioners and Holden were business-like but cordial as the board reviewed several pending matters, including the fact that some 12,000 people who had registered to vote since the August 2 election had not yet received their voter cards and would not, said Holden, until the final resolution of redistricting issues, expected late this week or early next week.

Holden’s staff is currently getting assistance from the University of Memphis and the state Election Coordinator’s office in addressing the redistricting, and Meyers said he thought things were progressing in a timely manner.

The deadline for new voter registration for the November 6 election is October 8, and early voting will begin on October 17.

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