Voters casting ballots in wrong district won’t get to re-vote

More than 200 votes were cast in the wrong places, Tosin Fakile reports
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 8:09 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Hundreds of voters cast the wrong ballot in Davidson County and the county’s election administrator said they cannot do anything to try and make sure those votes get thrown out and allow those voters to cast a ballot in their correct district.

The Associated Press first reported on Tuesday that votes were cast incorrectly in Nashville’s redrawn congressional districts.

On Wednesday, Administrator of Elections Jeff Roberts said 190 ballots in the congressional districts were cast wrong, 16 in state senate races and six in state house races. A total of 212 votes cast wrong.

“From our perspective, anytime you do not offer a perfect election for the voters, you’ve kind of shortchanged everyone in the process,” Roberts said Wednesday. “It’s definitely our goal to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Roberts said they realized several addresses did not match exactly what the state’s Comptroller had after redistricting and it resulted in some voters not receiving the correct ballot.

Roberts said until they find out what led to the error, the election commission would be accepting responsibility.

“The way I look at it, until we know for sure, we’re accepting responsibility,” Roberts said.

Roberts said there are multiple people involved in the redistricting process.

“All along the way people are interjecting effort into the process,” Roberts said. “Until we go back and look, OK, where did this specific issue happen, we don’t really know where in the process we need to correct it or prepare for the next redistricting, so you don’t see this again.”

Roberts said a voter brought the issue to their attention when they were trying to fix their address and noticed the wrong candidate on their ballot.

Roberts said he stayed late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning fixing the problem which he said they did with the help of the State Comptroller and changed the addresses of those impacted for future votes.

WSMV4 asked Roberts what would happen to the votes of those who voted in the wrong district and whether those people would be able to re-vote in the correct district.

“Think about it this way. We voted more than 45,000 people already. Those votes could have happened on any day during early voting, so they are now mixed in with those 212 with the 45,000. We don’t know which ones they are,” Roberts said.

The problem may have been fixed locally, but did re-drawing the districts in the first place add to the problem? Davidson County has traditionally been one congressional district of its own with other counties added instead of being split into three districts.

“I don’t think so at all. I think Democrats are trying to make it sound like that,” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said. “My understanding is too, the election office, the Davidson County election office, still messed up some state house districts. So, it was a human error.”

Leaders of the Tennessee Democratic Party said it’s important voters know what happened with “gerrymandering.”

“And how redistricting has impacted voters in congressional districts 5, 6 and 7 being provided and casting the wrong ballots as a failure of the Davidson County Election Commission and the Secretary of State,” Hendrell Remus, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said Wednesday.

Democratic leaders held a press conference Wednesday condemning what happened, placing blame on gerrymandering that they said Tennessee Republican leaders did, and also called for Roberts to resign.

“I think that leads to zero confidence in his ability to lead the Davidson County Election Commission and he should step down or the election commission should remove him,” Remus said.

Roberts responded to the Democrat’s call for his resignation.

“Well, you know my goal in life is to always do as good a job as I possibly can. I won’t be perfect. I will strive to be perfect,” Roberts said. “But as long as I know I’ve done everything I can do to do a good job for voters, I can sleep at night.”

As for his plans to prevent this from happening again moving forward.

“They key for us after the election is to go back, kind of deconstruct the process as a whole and figure out where the error occurred and why did it occur and why was it not caught before we got to this point,” Roberts said. “Once we have done these things, we can then put a plan together.”

Roberts said redistricting didn’t add to the issue but redrawing the boundary lines complicates matters.

“The state had to redraw the congressional maps, the state Senate, House boundary lines. The Council had to do their piece for council district lines, and then toss in a lawsuit or two and all of a sudden what used to be six months is down to a couple of months. So, everyone was in a bit of a rush to put everything together before the May election,” Roberts said.