Whether it’s a case of a blind squirrel finding real acorns or a maligned activist coming into her own with important revelations, new questions raised about the Shelby County Election Commission by controversial Seattle-area voting-rights activist Bev Harris may well cause serious investigations and important procedural changes.
Allegations from Harris last week that hundreds of Shelby County voters — almost all black Democrats — have had their voting history erased have put Election Commission officials on the defensive and prompted a demand from 9th District congressman Steve Cohen Sunday that the U.S. Department of Justice and Tennessee State Election Coordinator Mark Goins look into her charges. “The ballot must remain free and open to all,” said Cohen, who had made similar requests for DOJ scrutiny following a glitch in the August 2010 countywide election that caused several hundred voters to be turned away, at least temporarily, after an erroneous early-voting list had been fed into the county’s electronic voting log.
Subsequently, a slate of losing Democratic candidates in that election filed suit to force new elections, and Harris was one of several consultants called in to aid the litigants. She helped prepare a comprehensive list of alleged irregularities but was not recognized as a proper authority by Chancellor Arnold Goldin, nor did attorneys for the plaintiffs avail themselves of her most sensational accusations, some of which imputed illegal intentions to the Election Commission. Goldin would ultimately dismiss the suit summarily.
Harris, whose Black Box Voting blog attempts to monitor election irregularities nationwide, has remained in touch with Shelby County Democrats who are appealing that decision and has stepped-up her attentions to local voting issues of late.