Continuing in the vein of “there is no small stuff” in elections, here’s a story from Davidson County (Nashville), TN where voters in the August primary didn’t always get the ballot they were expecting, acording to the Tennessean. The problem, apparently, was that the county’s vendor failed to program electronic pollbooks to allow for the fact that the Volunteer State conducts “open primaries” where a voter can choose which party’s ballot to cast – as opposed to a “closed primary” where voters must register as a member of a party in order to cast a ballot in that party’s primary. Unfortunately, the mistake creates a situation where critics can claim that the vendor is either engaging in illicit activity or simply incompetent.
The big problem, of course, is that terminating the county’s relationship with the vendor would be difficult and expensive – not to mention disruptive so close to Election Day. Davidson County election official Albert Tieche may be unhappy – “I had a great reputation until they do a programming change,” he said – but for now the county and the vendor are stuck with one another.
Another problem, though, is the danger of overreaction – and based on current reports that could be occurring in Davidson County. For now, the county is not planning to use its electronic pollbooks in November, even though every voter (regardless of party) will get the same ballot. In some ways, that decision is understandable, but I’m not sure that treating electronic pollbooks as a sunk cost necessitates forgoing their potential benefits on Election Day. In other words, while it’s abundantly clear that someone needs to held accountable for Davidson County’s pollbook problems, I’m not sure it’s fair that “someone” is Davidson County voters.