I think the flap over early voting has shown a complete dereliction on the part of the press to report accurately and fairly the necessary facts relevant to the citizens of Davidson County regarding early voting. Instead of finding out the truth the Tennessean rushed to write an editorial that was entirely one-sided and misguided. While that's unsurprising, I think it's still worth pointing out. Today the League of Women Voters sent a letter to all CM's essentially defending the action of the DCEC. Below is the email I sent to Tennessean Editor David Plazas. He has as of yet chosen to not correct his errant editorial.
From: Stites, Josh (Council Member) Josh.Stites@nashville.gov
Date: Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 12:22 PM
Subject: Mayor’s Budget Carves Out DCEC Staffing
In case you have not seen this I am forwarding you an email that the Council received this morning from the League of Women Voters.
Satellite early voting (I would guess) is overwhelmingly used by the more "suburban" areas where the satellite locations are found like in District 13. So, this is an issue that is very important to me and the people of District 13. But, I have been skeptical of the way this story has been presented. The editorial condemning the DCEC as disenfranchising voters erroneously claimed that the DCEC budget was for 12 new employees and that essentially the DCEC was choosing to make new hires over funding early voting. These are 12 employees currently employed. What the DCEC has stated is the choice under the current budget will be that either the current staff be reduced from 33 employees down to 21 - a 36% reduction - or early voting be reduced.
The budget increase is necessary because in FY16 there is an additional election - the March Presidential Primary - over the two that were held in FY15.
The irritation for me is that the same people who derided the DCEC under the last administrator for operational deficiencies are now claiming the DCEC is trying to disenfranchise voters by making tough choices with a limited budget. It seems some want to have it both ways. I understand the politics of the office. This is the only office in Metro that is under "Republican control" and in Democratic Nashville it will forever be the whipping boy. But, it's disheartening when the media seemingly jumps on the bandwagon with the editorial.
I may have my facts wrong and I stand to be corrected if I do. But, I think the email below reiterates my understanding of the DCEC budget position. And if it does and I am correct, it seems that in the interest of fairness and accuracy the editorial should be significantly and immediately corrected.
From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 8:58 AM
To: Council Members
Subject: Mayor’s Budget Carves Out DCEC Staffing
Mayor’s Budget Carves Out DCEC Staffing
The League of Women Voters of Nashville (LWVN) advocates for fair, free, and accessible voting procedures that make it easy for citizens to vote. Last Tuesday, we observed the frustration of the Davidson County Election Commissioners (DCEC) in achieving these same goals.
Members of LWVN regularly attend DCEC meetings and post reports on our website. To our surprise, these meetings are rarely observed by reporters from Nashville media.
A successful election requires paid and trained poll workers, effective technology, and excellent coordination of resources. This is possible only if DCEC staff have completed the necessary preparations in the months preceding an election. While the Metro budget proposed by the Mayor’s office for 2015-16 will provide full funding for elections days during the year, it cuts the 12 existing DCEC positions needed to make election days run smoothly. That represents 38% of the DCEC staff.
These 12 positions had erroneously been listed as non-recurring expenditures instead of ongoing operating expenses in the proposed Metro budget from the Mayor’s office. DCEC Chairman Buchanan reported that Metro Finance Director Reibling concurred that in future budget years these 12 existing positions should be re-classified as ongoing expenses. However, additional funds for salary were not added in the Mayor’s budget that was presented to Metro Council this month.
The only way that the DCEC can offset such a deep operational budget cut is to eliminate all optional early voting sites (the Howard School site would be the only early voting site available) in the August election and September runoff. DCEC hopes that the threat of such change in early voting opportunities and sites will be sufficient to convince Metro Council members to approve supplemental funds needed to support staffing.
The League of Women Voters of Nashville encourages an agreement among the Election Commission, Metro Council, and Mayor’s office that will result in both adequate DCEC staffing AND full usage of all possible early voting sites in the upcoming Metro election.
Debby Gould, President
League of Women Voters of Nashville