Election Commission to seek change to polling place boundary law

Published 3:49 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

Following several complaints received during the recent County Primary Election, members of the Carter County Election Commission voted Monday to work with county government officials to seek a change in state law that could help alleviate some of the problems.

The Carter County Election Commission voted unanimously to ask the Carter County Commission to pursue getting a Private Act passed through the Tennessee General Assembly that would change the current 100-foot boundary around polling places to 300 feet.

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During Monday’s meeting of the Election Commission, Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris told the board that she and her staff had received several complaints regarding campaign workers and aggressive campaigning both during the early voting period and at the precincts on election day.

Several members of the Election Commission said they had also received complaints regarding campaign workers.

Election Commission Member Ramon Sanchez-Vinas said he encountered an issue with a campaign worker while visiting the Roan Mountain precinct on Election Day. The campaign worker was standing in the driveway causing a traffic issue, Sanchez-Vinas said, adding he stopped and spoke with the individual regarding the problem.

Election Commission Chairman Doug Buckles said one of the election officials at the Midway precinct reported to him that a campaign worker came into the polling place and was handing out campaign cards. Buckles said the election officials stopped the individual, who said they did not know they were not allowed to enter the polling place to hand out campaign material.

During the early voting period, some individuals filed complaints regarding campaign workers.

“Some people are overzealous with their candidates,” Election Commission Member Junior Stanley said. “I’ve heard cussing and everything else.”

Buckles said the Election Commission needs to make sure the rules are clearly relayed to the candidates regarding what is or is not allowed so they can pass that along to the people working on their campaigns.

“We do need to put that in our candidate packets that you are responsible for your campaign workers,” Harris said.

In addition to the campaign workers, Stanley said the number of campaign signs around the Election Office during early voting and around the precincts on Election Day could also cause problems.

“They are distractions to people driving,” Stanley said, adding the signs often make it difficult to see properly at intersections or when pulling out of a street or parking lot.

Harris said she would like to see the boundary rule changed from 100 feet to 300 feet. Previously, the boundary around a polling place had been set at 300 feet, but it was decreased to 100 feet several years ago by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“I think pushing it back would alleviate a lot of these problems,” Harris said.

Several members of the Election Commission agreed they would like to see the boundary returned to 300 feet and began to discuss the best way to go about it, whether to pursue the changes directly with the state elected officials or to ask the County Commission to pursue a Private Act for the county.

Stanley made a motion to ask the County Commission to pursue a Private Act to move the boundary back to 300 feet. Election Commission Member Millard Garland provided the second for the motion, which passed unanimously on a vote.

Harris said there were other counties in the state which had been experiencing similar issues.

“I think there will be more counties follow along behind us if we do this,” Harris said.