Washington County, TN absentee voter receives wrong ballot, creating new concerns about ballot issues

Your Local Election HQ

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — New concerns emerged about early voting errors in Washington County, Tennessee.

For the past several days we have been tracking complaints about early voters being given the wrong ballots at the polls.

One of those who said he was given the wrong ballot was Rep. Phil Roe.

He told News Channel 11 on Sunday that he actually cast his ballot for candidates in the wrong district before realizing it and complaining to poll workers.

Now, we are hearing about at least one Washington County voter getting the wrong absentee ballot in the mail.

Cecile Huddleston told News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun that she received an absentee ballot over the weekend for State House District 6, even though she lives in District 7.

One candidate in the race said this mistake is inexcusable. She said the voters should have an election process they can trust.

“It shouldn’t happen. It just shouldn’t happen. It’s negligence,” Huddleston said.

Huddleston now questions the integrity of the election process.

“I opened up our ballots when they came in the mail and just quickly looked, and didn’t notice one person I knew that I was voting for,” she said.

Huddleston said the Washington County Election Commission plans to mail her a new ballot.

“There was no explanation as to why that would happen, but she said they would mail another one out to me,” Huddleston said.

Kassahun reached out to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office for an explanation on the ballot confusion:

A large part of the confusion stems from poll officials writing Precinct 6 on a ballot application where the House District is 7. Voters were getting a House District 6 ballot because of the 6 on the paperwork.

The Division of Elections requested poll officials receive additional training, more signage is posted at polling sites for voters and that poll officials no longer write a precinct on some paperwork to avoid any possible confusion.

Julia Bruck
Director of Communications
Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

“We want to have an election process we can trust,” said Rebecca Keefauver Alexander who is running against incumbent Rep. Matthew Hill in the District 7 Republican primary.

Alexander’s husband received a ballot for the Democratic primary during early voting even though he asked to vote in the Republican primary.

Alexander said, “How can the people of Washington County trust this election process? This is fundamental to our democracy and we have to be able to know that when we go into the polls, or when we get a ballot sent to our house, it’s going to be for where we actually live not a district we don’t live in.”

She urges voters to double check their ballots before voting.

“It’s so important to be able to elect who you want to represent you,” Alexander said. “It’s not good for any person running for office. This is not about me running, this is about every single person, every school board member that’s running, every congressional case that’s running, every or house person that’s running.”

Huddleston said, “It worries me that a lot of people are not going to realize that they even have the wrong ballot and they’ll just fill them in, mail them in. Others have voted incorrectly, which really to me should negate the whole election.”

More than 2,000 people voted early in Washington County on Friday and Saturday. News Channel 11 does not know how many absentee ballots have been issued thus far. This number would come from the Washington County Election administrator Maybell Stewart.

We have continued to try to get answers from her but she will not respond to our requests.

We reached out the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office for comment about the issue:

The Washington County Election Administrator made us aware of the problem Friday. Since then, the state has been working with county election officials to fix the problem.

“…Washington County election officials have been working diligently to fix the problem. Washington County election officials have assured us they are committed to making sure Washington County residents cast a vote on the correct ballot.

Julia Bruck
Director of Communications
Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Kassahun asked the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office about whether or not those who have already voted using the wrong ballot can appeal. The Office stated, There is a not a mechanism to “appeal” one’s vote.”

The office also said a similar issue happened in Hamilton County.

If you wish to vote absentee, you must submit a request by July 30. Early voting continues through August 1. You can find a list of early voting locations and times under the Your Local Election Headquarters section.

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