'Operator error' causes husband, wife from same home to vote in different races

Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 3:28pm

Exiting a Glencliff-area polling place Thursday morning where she had just voted in the Democratic primary, Virginia Welsch picked up on a procedural error in Thursday’s election.

Welsch and husband Michael Muldoon, who lives in the same residence and showed up at the voting site a few minutes earlier, had received two different ballots and thus voted in two different races.

Welsch’s ballot included the race for state House District 53, featuring Jason Powell and Jason Potts, but her husband’s ballot featured House District 52 in which Rep. Mike Stewart is running unopposed.

“We had gotten different ballots,” Welsch told The City Paper. But when she discovered the error, it was too late. “We had both already cast the ballots.”

Welsch, who operates the community radio station WRFN-Radio Free Nashville, said she returned to the polling place and talked to a Davidson County Election Commission official on the phone. She said the official chalked up the mistake to “operator error.” It was too late to do anything about it.

According to the election commission’s website, both Welsch and Muldoon should have voted in the House District 52 race.

“I think the whole thing speaks to the entire integrity of the election,” Welsch said, pointing to incidents of “wrong ballots” in other parts of Tennessee, including Memphis.

Davidson County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on this incident.

Earlier on Thursday, when asked about potential incorrect ballots issued at other precincts, Tieche told The City Paper that some voters are unaware of their new districts as a result of recent redistricting. “That’s a possibility.”

“Now, there’s also a possibility of human error,” Tieche said. “It does happen every now and then where when the machine operator sets the ballot, it is possible that they push the wrong button. If a voter doesn’t see it or call it to anyone’s attention until after they voted, then we can’t fix it.”

Tieche added, “I have no reports of any sort of widespread incorrect ballots.”

1 Comment on this post:

By: govskeptic on 8/3/12 at 8:20

Let's not get too harsh on those that work the polls. Most, but not all, are long
time volunteers who earn a few dollars working in the elections. This year
is full of new districts for all kinds of races, and this could be an honest
mistake. Let's just hope the Nov General is more routine.