Election Panel Does Not Go Along With Extra Early Voting Sites For City Election

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Election Commission member James Anderson on Wednesday argued strenuously for two additional early voting sites for the upcoming city of Chattanooga election, but he did not get a second.

Jerry Summers, the other Democrat on the panel, said he did not second the motion because he said the city had not formally requested sites at Alton Park and Lookout Valley.

The City Council earlier indicated it was willing to pay for those locations, but City Attorney Mike McMahan later said Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan told him that it would only be the three normal early voting sites.

Election Commission members said Wednesday that the final decision is not with the staff, but the commission.

Mr. Summers did make a motion that was approved that for future elections the office study voter demographics in instances where municipalities make requests for additional early voting sites.

The office will also study possible changes to the 10-6 hours for early voting. Chairman Mike Walden said that does not accommodate those who want to vote on their way to work.

Mr. Walden also objected to the fact that Northgate Mall does not allow campaign signs. He said for future elections another location should be found that does allow the signs.

For the March 5 election, early voting will be at Northgate Mall, the Brainerd Recreation Center and the election office off Amnicola Highway.

Mr. Walden and Mr. Summers said in considering early voting sites that the commission should make sure they are not sought by a particular candidate in order to benefit his or her candidacy. "It should be a level playing field," Mr. Summers said.

Mr. Anderson said that was not the case for the city request. He said, "The person who asked for early voting in Alton Park represents 58 Highway."

Mr. Anderson said Alton Park has a high number of blacks and Hispanics, who are "transportation-challenged." He said Lookout Valley has no public transportation.

He said the city should have gotten the requested extra voting sites since it was willing to pay for them. "Why in the world would we stand in the way of elected officials?" he said.

Early voting is Feb. 13-28.      

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