Election Commission prepares for County Primary Election

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Members of the Carter County Election Commission met Monday morning to make final preparations heading into the May 1 Primary Election.

With the election nearing, Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said there are several important dates coming up.

Election officials will travel to the local nursing homes between April 3 and April 9 so that residents there will have the opportunity to vote if they choose to, Harris informed the Election Commission.

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Early voting will begin on Wednesday, April 11, and end on Thursday, April 26. Polls will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturdays during the early voting period.

“The hours this office is open for early voting far exceeds what the state requires,” Carter County Election Commission Chairman Doug Buckles said.

Under state law, county election commissions must be open for early voting a minimum of three consecutive hours each weekday, including Saturdays, sometime between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the early voting period set for each election by the state.

“I think it’s a pretty good deal for people, especially on Saturdays,” Buckles said of early voting.

Buckles said lots of local residents take advantage of early voting to avoid long lines at the polls on Election Day.

“During the Presidential election we had over 11,000 early voters,” Harris said in response.

At 8 a.m. on April 11, the voting machines to be used during early voting will be open for inspection by representatives from the local Republican and Democrat parties, candidates, or members of the public. Election officials will turn on the machines and print what Harris called “zero tapes” showing that no votes had previously been cast on the machine.

After early voting is over at 4 p.m. on April 26, two members of the Election Commission — one from each political party — will lock the machine tally cards into a secure box. The box will be opened on Election Day after the polls close and the votes will be counted at that time.

Machine inspection for Election Day for the May 1 Primary will be held on April 27. On that day, political party representatives, candidates, or members of the public can come and conduct inspections on the voting machines which will be sent to the precincts. After the inspection, the machines will be secured until they are delivered to the polling sites. Prior to the polls opening on May 1, the Election Officer at each precinct will print “zero tapes” showing no votes had been cast on the machine previously.

According to Harris, training for Election Day poll workers will take place over two days — April 16 and 17 — with workers being required to attend one of the two sessions. Training for Election Officers and Machine Operators will take place at 5 p.m. both days at the Carter County Election Commission, located at 116 Holston Ave., Elizabethton. Training for Registrars and Judges will take place at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 16, at the Carter County Board of Education office, located at 305 Academy St., Elizabethton. The Registrar and Judge training session on Tuesday, April 17, will take place at 5 p.m. in the courtroom at the Carter County Courthouse, located at 801 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton.

Harris also updated the Election Commission that a Canvasing Board will be needed for the election to count write-in votes.

“We do have one write-in candidate, David Campbell for constable in the 8th District,” Harris said.

Harris also presented the group with a list of acceptable variations of Campbell’s name based on a State Election Commission form.

In order for write-in votes to count, the individual must have first qualified as a write-in candidate. After that, the Election Commission must adopt a list of spelling variants that the Canvasing Board will use when counting the votes.

For example, Harris said, the Board will count votes cast for “Campbell” or “Cambell” as being for David Campbell. Voters casting write-in ballots can include the candidate’s first name or first initial if they want, but it is not required according to Harris.

“(The State) accepts the last name by itself but not the first name by itself,” she explained, adding the Canvasing Board is tasked with determining the “voter’s intent” when ruling whether or not a vote counts.

Members of the Election Commission voted 4-0 to approve the list of alternate spellings for the write-in campaign. Buckles, and fellow Election Commission members Junior Stanley, Millard Garland and Ramon Sanchez-Vinas all voted to approve the list, while Election Commission member Paul Souder abstained on the vote.

The next meeting of the Carter County Election Commission will be held on May 14 to certify the results of the May 1 Primary Election.