Thursday, August 2, 2012

SCEC Chairman Takes His Lumps, Acknowledging More Likely Glitches on Election Day

Effect of previous problems likely to result in lower-than-expected turnout, says Meyers, adding that extra precautions at polls would result in slower voting and later returns than usual.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM

SCEC chairman Robert Meyers
  • JB
  • SCEC chairman Robert Meyers
Give this to Robert Meyers, the mild-mannered and much-beleaguered chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission: He understands that he is accountable to the public, and he is willing to be a stand-up guy about the numerous ongoing glitches in the county’s election process.

Meeting with members of the media at the Commission’s Nixon Drive headquarters on Wednesday, Meyers, an attorney, offered no false reassurances and took his lumps. “I don’t believe we have completely eliminated the issues. There is some possibility that there will be errors tomorrow [election day], “ he said.

Meyers also acknowledged that the well-publicized glitches during early voting, which resulted in almost 2,700 known cases of voters being given ballots containing district races, had the probable result that many voters “held back” from early voting and might do so again on election day. He estimated that perhaps 10 percent of the eligible county electorate (62,601 of 583,443) had voted early and that maybe “another 10 or 15 percent” might do so on Thursday.

And he warned that another 3,000 or so potential election-day voters might still be “affected” — meaning that, after the SCEC checked its figures with state voter records, that was the likely number of potential voters whose ballots would be “not correctly associated with [their] precinct.”

Meyers, the latest local Republican chairman of the SCEC since the GOP became the state's official majority party, said these potential problems remained “in spite of tremendous effort on our part and on the part of the state.” The situation was “embarrassing to everybody involved,” he admitted.

(The Commission’s local efforts are now under direct scrutiny by both state Election Coordinator Mark Goins, who had earlier confirmed the glitches tabulated by local investigators Steve Ross and Joe Weinberg, and the office of Secretary of State Tre Hargett, which is conducting an investigation.)

To help deal with expected voting problems on election day, Meyers said the Commission had decided to “slow the process down a little bit.” Elaborating, he said that would take the form of “an extra step” in the voting process, whereby the addresses of voters, especially those on the likely-error list, would be checked against the state’s correct district lines before the individuals cast their ballots, either by machine or by provisional ballot.

If necessary, a voter’s card can be corrected with the proper information on site. One result of the slower process would be delays in reporting totals, Meyers said.

He noted that, in the case of the primaries for state House and Senate races, where most of the identified errors are, the Democratic and Republican parties themselves would have to determine what to do about contested results. In the case of problems with Shelby County School Board races, or with the District 1 County Commission race on the ballot, any contest would probably be adjudicated “by the courts,” he said.

While conceding that “it certainly would have helped if we’d started sooner,” Meyers said he didn’t think the Commission’s delay in marching up districts with precincts while awaiting the Shelby County Commission’s reapportionment was the only factor that might have resulted in the glitches. There could be any number of “unknown factors,” he said.

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