The Shelby County Election Commission failed to follow “all of the procedural requirements” in overseeing the results of the Shelby County Commission District 10 race, but that does not warrant action to correct the results.
The Shelby County Primary Board of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee and State Primary Board put its stamp on that conclusion Wednesday.
If there are no further challenges, the ruling means that Reginald Milton, who was declared the winner of the May 6th contest by the Election Commission, will take on Republican Geoff Diaz in the general election on Aug. 7th.
Sections of Cooper-Young (Midtown), Chickasaw Gardens (East Memphis), Orange Mound and South Memphis make up District 10.
Martavius Jones, a former member of the Memphis City Schools board, filed the challenge with the Primary Board.
“We find that there is no question that the votes stored in the subject machines at Ward-Precinct 31-02 are in fact the will of the people who voted at that polling location. We do not find any evidence of tampering with those results,” the Primary Board wrote in its ruling.
Jones presented evidence of the following improprieties to the board:
1. There was only one voting machine’s printout / tally signed and sealed on Election Day from Ward Precinct 31-02. The commission did not create a written report of any revisions related to any missing tally tapes.
2. After a challenge by Jones, the Election Commission broke the seals on the machines and printed out “duplicate tapes” from the unreported machines without court order to do so in violation of state law.
3. The Election Commission certified results from “unsigned duplicate tapes” by way of a “spot audit” as opposed to an audit of every tape from every precinct in Shelby County.
The five-member Primary Board met in Midtown at the IBEW Local 474 hall.
According to the Election Commission, Milton received 2,124 votes, with 2,098 votes for Jones and 731 for Jake Brown. It was Jones who detected that only one tape from one of four machines at Ward-Precinct 31-02 was signed and sealed and taken to the Election Commission’s Operations Center on election night as required by law.
Jones sought the exclusion of the “unsigned duplicate printouts” from the machines in question. Milton argued that such a moved was tantamount to the disenfranchisement of the voters assigned to Ward Precinct 31-02.
“The fact that original tapes could not be found or accounted for deeply concerns this body,” the Primary Board concluded. “However, we decline to disenfranchise any voter at polling place 31-02 and accept the unsigned duplicate tapes as a part of the recording of the will of the people in that ward-precinct.”
Jones makes a “strong argument that the integrity of the process is tainted by the failure of the Election Commission to follow the statutory procedural safeguards,” the board concluded.