Concerns about voter registrations and the security of electronic voting machines are looming over the upcoming election in Tennessee’s largest county. Two lawsuits have been filed in connection with Tuesday’s pivotal election in Shelby County, the largest by population in Tennessee and the one that includes Memphis. Election officials there have pushed back against allegations of voter suppression and that they are not doing enough to protect the election process. Tennessee features a race for governor and a tight U.S. Senate race between Republican Marsha Blackburn, who served 16 years in the U.S. House, and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor. The Senate race is being closely watched nationally as Democrats try to flip the seat in a state with relatively low voter turnout.
Articles about voting issues in Tennessee.
An effort to have the federal Department of Homeland Security conduct a cyber-security threat assessment of Shelby County’s touchscreen voting machines and a have a special master review the county’s voting system has been denied in Memphis Federal Court. The temporary restraining order seeking those measures was sought by the group Shelby Advocates for Valid Elections – or SAVE – before the Oct. 17 start of early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day. The request was part of a larger lawsuit still pending before U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker that seeks to bar the use of the touchscreen voting machines after the November election. “Although the law recognizes the voters’ rights can be impaired any number of ways, to be actionable under due process, the system must be fundamentally unfair,” Parker wrote in the Oct. 24 ruling, adding SAVE has not shown that.
A legal battle between voting rights activists and the Shelby County Election Commission rages on. A key hearing in Chancery Court was postponed Wednesday afternoon. The subject of the hearing was a lawsuit accusing the Shelby County Election Commission of suppressing voters. “When you start talking about voter suppression, one suppressed vote is one too many,” Earle Fisher, with Up The Vote 901, said. The suit was filed against the commission by the NAACP Memphis chapter and the Tennessee Black Voter Project. It concerns 4,000 to 6,000 incomplete or rejected registration forms.
When the first day of early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day had ended Wednesday, Shelby County election commissioner Norma Lester offered her verdict on how it went with a brief Facebook post. “Don’t know any other way to say it except the first day of Early Voting was absolute HELL!” she wrote. “Hoping for a better Second day.” A total of 11,445 Shelby County voters cast their ballots on the first day of the voting period that runs through Nov. 1 and takes in 27 polling places countywide. The total, which includes absentee ballots, is more than three times the 3,215 early voters at 20 sites on the opening day of early voting for the same election cycle in 2014 and more than double the 4,713 at 21 sites in 2010. The total early voting turnout was 84,711 four years ago and 109,232 in 2010.
On Friday, a 30-year-old culinary student and Nigerian immigrant in Nashville, Tennessee, attempted to update her voter registration information so that she could vote in the state’s upcoming primaries. The woman, Funmilayo Ekundayo, had voted in two previous elections, so updating her registration should have been routine. But after getting through the second step of Tennessee’s multistep online voter registration system, which rolled out in 2017, Ekundayo was told by the website that records showed she was “not a citizen of the United States.” It was just days before Tennessee’s July 3 deadline to vote in the August primaries.
Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections. Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13. Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.
Nothing will get an elected official angrier than when you talk about voting and voting machines. Exhibit A the Shelby County Diebold Voting Machines or as Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland calls them the dee-bold machines. He wishes they machines would just go away. just head for that big election in the sky just up and dee. “I don’t have any confidence in that dee-bold machine,” Roland told other commissioners, “And I think the public don’t have any confidence. And I think because of the machines that might be why we have a lack of participation in Shelby County in elections. I think that’s one thing we can change.” This whole thing just popped up in a meeting where Elections Administrator Linda Phillips wanted commissioners to give the elections commission $175-thousand dollars to buy something else. “We need the devices that create the voter access card to be used with our current voting machines,”she says.
When a WWE wrestler, especially one known for his demonic antics and a move called the “tombstone piledriver,” runs for mayor of your county, you know your election is going to get more attention than usual. But in Knox County, Tenn., it wasn’t the fact that Glenn Jacobs, also known to wrestling fans as Kane, was running for mayor that gained national attention on the county primary day, May 1. It was that the county’s election website, at the time the site was supposed to begin posting election results, came under attack. Malicious cyber actors shut down the county website and broke into the web server, according to county officials and a report done by the cyber security firm Sword and Shield. …”Any web server by definition, is connected to the internet, so it’s directly vulnerable to attacks from the internet,” said Doug Jones, an elections cyber security expert at the University of Iowa.
Knox County IT director Dick Moran and county IT staff were ready for Election Day and the higher amounts of traffic that would undoubtedly come to the county election commission website with former WWE wrestler, Glenn Jacobs, on the Republican ballot. At 7:50 p.m. Moran instructed the website be checked to make sure the early voting results could be posted when the polls closed 10 minutes later. Everything checked out. Everything was working. Sign Up: Get breaking news headlines in your inbox. Seven minutes after his request, Knox County’s election commission website was attacked and the results, although not impacted by the attack, wouldn’t be displayed until nearly 9 p.m., sowing more chaos into an already energetic and unpredictable night. All of the disruption, it has been determined since, was an effort to distract the county while another, simultaneous attack was happening behind the scenes accessing county information, according to Moran and Deputy IT Director David Ball.
An intentional cyberattack and suspicious activity by foreign computers preceded the crash of a website that was reporting results in a Tennessee county’s primary elections, a cyber-security firm said Friday. The Knox County elections website suffered the attack, and “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the site on May 1, according to the report by Sword & Shield Enterprise Security. The firm hired by the county said those actions were among the likely causes of the crash, which also included a large increase in errors and in overall traffic. Officials have said no voting data was affected, but the site was down for an hour after the polls closed – causing confusion among voters – before technicians fixed the problem.