Election Attorney Says Recounts Rare, Expensive; Says Party Would Have To Approve And Requesting Candidate Likely Pay Costs

Clem Says 2 Other State Contests Were Closer Than 10th Senate District

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hamilton County Election Commission Attorney Chris Clem said Saturday that recounts are rare and costly.

He said it would be up to the state party to request any recount and the requesting candidate would likely have to pay the costs.

Greg Vital said he is seeking a recount of votes in his close loss to Todd Gardenhire in the Republican primary for the 10th state Senate District.

Election officials said Mr. Gardenhire won by 15 votes across the district. The margin was widened to 40 votes after Mr.

Gardenhire picked up 25 votes at Eastdale that were not initially counted.

Attorney Clem said, "We have not had an election contest in Hamilton County since I have become the attorney. Further, we have not had a requested recount since we obtained the new computer scanning voting machines.  I researched Tennessee Code and called the state election office regarding this process.  

"The Hamilton County Election Commission will not certify the election until Aug. 16 at 8 a.m.  Pursuant to T.C.A. 2-17-104 any candidate has five days from the certification to contest a primary.  The state election commission has always said five days from the “last county to certify.”  However, it is possible that the state Republican Party (which has authority over such disputes) may say five days from state certification or five days from the first county to certify. .  

"I know that provisional ballots have not been counted.  The provisional ballots were in sealed election boxes on election night.  The provisional ballots could be people who did not have picture ids. Those people will have until Monday at 5 p.m. to return with picture id in order for their ballots to be counted.

A number of provisional ballots will also be people that claim to be registered but were not on our election rolls. These people may have had their picture ids but for whatever reason they were not on our registered rolls as voters. We will check with the state election commission for each person who filed a provisional ballot under this process.  The state election office basically researches and tells us whether to accept the ballot or not.  There are cases where someone may have been purged who should not have been.  Those provisional ballots are counted. 

"Contested primaries appear to be handled differently than other elections.  T.C.A. Section 2-17-104 appears to vest all jurisdiction for contested primaries with the state parties.  Courts have been held to have no jurisdiction.  So, it appears that the State Republican Party must be appealed to by any candidate wishing to contest the primary results.

"I have already spoken to the state party and the state election commission.  There are a number of very close legislative primaries in Tennessee this primary.  One Republican primary was won by five votes.  Another Republican primary was won by 11 votes.  So this state Senate primary is not the closest primary.  

"Only the state party can hear the request by a candidate for a recount or an election contest.  In other words, the election commission is not the entity that the candidate should appeal to.  And, only the state political party can ask the election commission for a recount.  

"It is not possible to “recount” only one county.  T.C.A. Section 2-17-117 requires all ballots to be recounted, not just one county. This applies to the state Senate primary or the congressional primary.  

"The costs are very expensive should a state party ask for a recount.  Someone must pay for the recount.  Two years ago we had one memory card go bad on one machine. We had to run all the ballots through that machine again.  It took several hours for that one machine.  Hamilton County has several hundred machines.  So, it would costs thousands of dollars to recount all 50,000 ballots in Hamilton County. 

"While Hamilton County has not had a contested election in recent times, the state election office told me that both the Democrat and Republican state parties have required the contesting candidate to pay for such costs in advance.  And, that is assuming the state party agrees to contest the election and ask for a recount, which the state parties have sole discretion whether to accept or not.  It is my understanding that the state parties rarely approve or accept a request by a candidate to contest a primary result.

"In 2007 Democrat Senator Rosalind Kurita was the deciding vote to make Ron Ramsey Senate Speaker over John Wilder.  The next election Rosalind Kurita won her Democrat primary by about 100 votes.  The losing Democrat contested the election.  The state Democrat Party accepted the contest and overturned the result. The Courts refused to interfere. The Courts held that the state parties had total control over primaries. And, in Kurita’s case the Democrat Party even had control to overturn the vote of the primary.  

"Any contesting candidate does not need to wait until Aug. 16 to contact the state Republican Party. I would recommend doing so today if the candidate intends to contest the results and ask for a recount.  I would also suggest finding out how many provisional ballots have been found in Hamilton and Bradley.  

"I have explained all of this to Vital’s attorneys.  Any public press releases by Vital’s campaign is not sufficient to start the recount or contesting process."

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Man, 33, Shot On Mitchell Avenue Tuesday Morning

Lebron Brown Charged In Shooting That Left Daniel Marshall In Critical Condition

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, AUSTIN A 711 BELVISTA AVENUE CHATTANOOGA, 37411 Age at Arrest: 32 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga FUGITIVE ... (click for more)

A man, 33, was shot on Mitchell Avenue Tuesday morning. At approximately 11:14 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a person shot in the 1700 block of Mitchell Avenue. Upon arrival, officers ... (click for more)

Lebron Terrell Brown has been charged in a Saturday night shooting that left Daniel Marshall in critical condition. Brown, 30, 2605 E. 19th St., was charged with attempted first-degree murder, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, AUSTIN A 711 BELVISTA AVENUE CHATTANOOGA, 37411 Age at Arrest: 32 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga FUGITIVE (ARREST OHIO STATE PAROLE VIOLATOR) --- ALLEN, BRIAN NICHOLAS 7229 BANTHER ROAD HARRISON, 37341 Age at Arrest: 31 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County DOMESTIC ASSAULT ... (click for more)

Man, 33, Shot On Mitchell Avenue Tuesday Morning

A man, 33, was shot on Mitchell Avenue Tuesday morning. At approximately 11:14 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a person shot in the 1700 block of Mitchell Avenue. Upon arrival, officers located the victim suffering from a non life-threatening gunshot wound. Hamilton County EMS responded and transported the victim to a local hospital. CPD Major Crimes Unit ... (click for more)


Alstom And Tubman: A Tale Of Two Sites

The former Alstom industrial site on the riverfront and the former Harriett Tubman housing site in East Chattanooga both have a lot of redevelopment potential. And yet the city of Chattanooga seems to view them quite differently. Alstom is the fair-haired child; Tubman is the forgotten child. The Alstom area was recently designated as an "opportunity zone" in a new program ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We're Torturing Millions

I’ll admit it – I would rather hurt than take an opioid pain pill. Hydrocodone and its cousins scare the willies out of me because once when I was ‘drug sick,’ it was the worst sickness I have ever known. For somebody who always has somewhere that it hurts, I know that opioids are wonderful when used properly but because they are increasingly abused by society, there are now over ... (click for more)


Birthday Celebration: Tyner's Hambrick Victory Leader

Melique Hambrick has hit some big buckets in his young high school basketball career, but none were ever any bigger than the one he hit at the end against East Ridge Tuesday night. Sam Garmany sank a jumper in the lane with 21 seconds left to put the Pioneers ahead by a point at 70-69, but Hambrick came through with a big 3 with six seconds remaining to lift the Rams to a stirring ... (click for more)

Hurricanes Rally To Beat Previously Unbeaten Mustangs, 63-58 In Overtime

In a District 5-3A basketball slugfest between what may be the two best teams in the league, East Hamilton got the go-ahead points on a steal-and-drive by Darwin Randolph in overtime and the Hurricanes defeated Walker Valley, 63-58, Tuesday night and handed the Mustangs their first loss of the season. “We had to keep playing a smart basketball because Walker Valley is a very ... (click for more)